In a piece today, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News calls upon the Rangers to commit to a path with young slugger Joey Gallo this winter. It’s a major question for Texas, with several possible strategies, so it seems worth posing the matter to MLBTR’s readers.
Though he’s still just 22 years of age, and continues to carry jaw-dropping power potential, Gallo wasn’t deemed worthy of a significant chance at major league action last year. He ultimately struck out 19 times and recorded just one hit in thirty MLB plate appearances scattered over 17 games. But Gallo continued to thrive at Triple-A, where he banged out 25 home runs and posted a .240/.367/.529 slash over 433 plate appearances.
The biggest question mark on Gallo remains the strikeouts. He walks quite a bit — 15.7% over his Triple-A season and 13.1% over his 153 MLB plate appearances — so it’s not as if he lacks for zone awareness. But Gallo has also struck out in just under half of his trips to the plate in his brief time in the majors while swinging through 22.5% of the pitches he offered at. (Khris Davis was worst among qualified MLB hitters last year with 16.6%.) And while Gallo trimmed his K rate a bit at the highest level of the minors in 2016, he faded after a promising start in that regard and still ended up going down on strikes 34.6% of the time.
While Texas can still option Gallo, the team faces the proposition of filling in two primary power spots in its lineup. Mitch Moreland is set to vacate first base via free agency, with Grant suggesting he won’t likely be pursued by the Rangers. And the team is also bidding adieu to DH candidate Carlos Beltran, who was acquired in the aftermath of Prince Fielder’s injury-induced retirement. With other positions also in need of solutions, Texas probably can’t afford to spend big on two bats to step into these openings.
Grant suggests that Texas could look to bring in free agent first baseman Mike Napoli for a third go with the organization. The right swinger is capable of playing first and would complement the left-handed-hitting Gallo. Alternatively, the club could look elsewhere, possibly attempting to re-sign Beltran — a switch-hitter who has logged all of five career innings at first base. Either way, that kind of addition would leave the team reliant upon Gallo, unless he is paired with another righty bat in some kind of DH platoon.
There are several other possible routes to consider, it seems. With a rather robust group of slugging types available this winter, the Rangers could add two lesser-priced bats and try to cash Gallo in to address another need. As Grant writes, though, his difficulties in turning the corner may make it hard for the team to cash Gallo in for a starting pitcher good enough to punt on his upside. He might also be used in some kind of platoon role — with players like Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar representing possible mates. And it’s certainly possible that Gallo could be sent back to Triple-A, but that would represent his third consecutive year at that level and would add to the payroll and roster pressures.
While the Rangers will get to watch Gallo play in Venezuelan winter ball action, and can to some extent delay final decisions until the spring, the organization largely knows the state of play and will need to chart a course for the winter market. What’s the best course of action?