Zac Gallen's dominance is becoming familiar with each passing week of the 2019 season. So is the first half of the following sentence:
The Marlins' No. 18 prospect has been named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week after allowing just one earned run on seven hits and three walks while fanning 16 over 12 innings for Triple-A New Orleans. Gallen was already the only multiple winner of the award so far this season, but he now becomes the first three-time winner since the PCL expanded to 16 teams in 1998.
"Any time you can get a consistent run of starts like this, it's always going to be fun," Gallen said. "I think I've been able to throw all four of my pitches [fastball, cutter, curveball, changeup] for strikes in almost any outing I've made so far, and I think that's the biggest thing that's been able to keep hitters off-balance so much this season."
The better of the 23-year-old right-hander's two starts on the week came last Tuesday against Fresno. Gallen matched a career high with 11 punchouts while allowing just one earned run on four hits and two walks over seven frames in a 5-1 win at home. He pitched five scoreless innings Sunday in his second start of the week, striking out five while allowing three hits and one walk in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to visiting Sacramento.
• View the Offensive Player of the Week winners »
The 16 strikeouts last week were the most of any Triple-A pitcher over the June 3-9 period and continued Gallen's K-heavy theme in 2019. The University of North Carolina product leads the Minor Leagues with 104 strikeouts over 86 innings in his second season with the Baby Cakes. His 33.4 percent strikeout rate is tops among 62 qualified Triple-A pitchers, as is his 14.7 percent swing-and-miss rate. Those are up significantly from his marks of 23.1 and 9.9 percent, respectively, over 133 1/3 innings last season with New Orleans.
"I've been working my fastball to different parts of the zone that I have probably ever have before," he said. "Using it up, in, out, I've been getting it everywhere I need to, and then I've been able to using other stuff to make pitches that really keep guys off-balance. ... I'm not necessarily a strikeout guy, though. The biggest thing is getting 0-2, 1-2, and then I can think about trying to put the guy away. But I'm never thinking about strikeouts right away. The next thing you get from strikeouts are long innings and short outings."
At a time when offense is up across the board at the Minors' highest level, it's no surprise that Triple-A's best pitcher is the one who has done the most to limit contact. Not only does Gallen lead the level in strikeouts, he's also tops in ERA (1.57), WHIP (0.70) and average-against (.150).
2019 MiLB include
Acquired from the Cardinals in the December 2017 trade that sent Marcell Ozuna the other way, Gallen is forging a mighty strong case to make his Major League debut with the Marlins soon. The righty sports a four-pitch mix, headlined by an above-average cutter, and typically throws in the low-90s with his heater. He's found success with that arsenal typically because of his impressive command and control, and he's improved there by bringing his walk rate down to 5.1 percent from 8.2 in the PCL a season ago.
The Marlins have used the same five starting pitchers all season in Jose Urena, Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Caleb Smith. Smith was placed on the 10-day injured list with left inflammation on June 7 and Gallen, who would need to be added to the 40-man roster, would be the logical candidate to slot into the rotation should Smith's injury require him to miss multiple starts.
"Ultimately, this is about the team up there and when they need you," Gallen said. "All I can do is be healthy for when they need me. That starts with not changing too much when things are working. You go around worrying why something isn't happening and you change things, that's when the real mistakes happen. All I can do is just be ready for when they need me."
Below is the complete list of Minor League Pitchers of the Week for June 3-9:
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 8 K
||1-0, 0.75 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 16 K
||2-0, 0.75 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 15 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 15 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 HBP, 2 BB, 11 K
||1-0, 1.38 ERA, 2 G, 1 GS, 13 IP, 13 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
||0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K