Because the home run is back and it’s cool again, it’s absolutely acceptable to kick off each blog morning with some massive moonshot by another young large boy with a build and a slugging percentage that would’ve fit right in 20 years ago—the most fun baseball era of my life, not for nothing. I do not want to know the terrifying truth. I want dingers.
Texas Rangers infielder Joey Gallo hit the dick off the ball at every level of the minors—when he was able to get the bat on it, at least. That’s been a struggle. He’s always profiled as a power hitter who’s going to strike out a lot, and the only question is was whether he could keep his batting average high enough to make him a viable lineup fixture. It’s a real question—his .224 average against AAA pitching was not ideal, and he’s below the Mendoza line in his brief big-league career—but the home runs are coming. Oh, are they coming.
This 459-foot shot in last night’s 10-4 Rangers win over the Tigers was Gallo’s 34th on the year. He’s (relatively) on fire since the All-Star break, hitting .250 with 13 home runs, and raising his season average to .208. That’s still pretty grim, but this is the kind of player Gallo is and is going to be. He’s struck out 145 times, fourth-most in baseball (with 100 fewer at-bats than anyone ahead of him), and incredibly, has more home runs than singles. Among players with at least 21 homers, only Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds have ever done that. A real throwback.
Gallo’s not worried.
“That’s just the player I am,” Gallo said. “You look at just the way the field’s shaped for me. I hit a line drive to the right side, I’m out. If I hit a ground ball to the right side, I’m out. As long as I’m putting together good at-bats or drawing walks, then for me that’s what’s important.”
So while his real best-case comps may be the likes of Adam Dunn or Ryan Howard, the immediate Aaron Judge comparisons are inevitable. The 6-foot-5 Gallo is now just two home runs behind Judge for the AL lead (and is going to make a real run at Judge and Miguel Sano atop the strikeout leaderboard). But Gallo is content playing with a fraction of the spotlight upon Judge.
“I’m really happy for him. I think he deserves to be that golden child,” Gallo said. “I don’t know how glad he is, because I don’t want to be. That’s a lot of stuff you have to deal with that would be annoying. ...You play in New York and you’re 6-foot-7 and you look like that, you hit balls every day, he’s always going to be that golden child. And he deserves it.”
Gallo is just 23 years old and in his first full season, so it’ll be interesting to see who figures out whom. If he can make better contact he could be a real weapon for a long time. But if pitchers learn to stay away from his sweet spots and if they find he struggles with breaking balls, he could be a fascinating, frustrating hitter: world-class power with sub-sub-replacement-level OBP. Just my type of player, honestly.