Joey Gallo: On the Cust of a Deer or Donkey?

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening — whichever is applicable to you. Two years ago I debated between Corey Seager and Joey Gallo for my first selection in a supplemental draft. Looking back, that decision seems rather obvious. Corey Seager has gone on to hit .312 with 34 home runs and a .895 OPS in 206 career games. Joey Gallo, on the other hand, has hit .193 with 14 HR and a .764 OPS over 75 games during the same time frame. Today even the most avid supporters of Gallo would much rather have Seager. Seager has emerged as a true MVP caliber player while Gallo has been unable to shed the Quad-A label.

Thanks to seven home runs (most of the Moonshot variety) in 22 games, Gallo seems to have re-captured the attention of many in the fantasy community. At the tender age of 23 and with obvious holes in his game (32.5 K% in 2017, 43.6% in 75 Career Games) most of the excitement is generated from those in Dynasty and Keeper formats. Could we look back five years from now and pencil 2017 as the year Joey Gallo  became Joey Gallo? Perhaps the more meaningful question to be answered is – exactly what the heck it means to be Joey Gallo.

Over the course of a player’s career certain labels begin to stick. From 2012-2017 Joey Gallo has had 12 stints of 5 games or more between the low minors and the majors. On two occasions (5 games at Rookie Ball in 2013 and 58 games in High-A ) Gallo posted a K% under 30%. More importantly, Gallo has been unable to manage significant improvements when repeating levels.

In 2014 Gallo posted a 39.5% K rate in Double-A, over 34 games in 2015 at the same level that rate was 33.6%. In 2015 in 53 games at Triple-A Gallo once again flirted with 40%. In a 102 game stint at Triple-A in 2016, Gallo posted a 34.6% K rate. Sure, gains were made in all cases, but the fact that all exceeded 30% makes it safe to apply the label of a big swing and miss player.

Now, all is certainly not bad with Gallo’s approach. In the midst of  his Wind Turbine Tour, a very strong plate patience has shined through. During those 12 aforementioned stops along the way, Gallo has posted a BB% below double-digits just once, and that was the five-game stint in Rookie Ball. Gallo has managed a 13% or greater mark in seven of those stops. Even at the major league level with the 43.6% K rate, Gallo has still managed a 13.6% walk rate over 236 career plate appearances. So once again with full confidence; I will apply the Avery Label in black Sharpie to Joey Gallo applauding his pitch recognition.




What we now have is a player who possess obvious power, a high degree of patience, and an uncanny ability to walk directly back to the dugout after a plate appearance. With these three things in mind I wanted to find player comparisons in order to project Gallo moving forward. Using 2,500 plate appearances as a qualifier, 23 players have finished their careers with a K% of 27 or worse. At a current clip of 32.5% in just 22 games and a lengthy track record of 30+%, a 27% mark would seem to be firmly planted on the best case scenario side.

Not everyone is so accepting of hand-outs. To further trim the comparison pool I wanted to target other players with similar plate patience. Once again, taking a very conservative approach, I simply identified players with a double-digit walk rate. Taking Gallo’s career trends into consideration, this total seems to be a give me. Of the 23 players who fit the K% requirements, 12 have featured the desired plate patience using the 2,500 plate appearance minimum.

The 12 players who possess a similar plate approach to what Joey Gallo projects to be are:

  1. Chris Carter (11.5/33)
  2. Russell Branyan (11.9/32.9)
  3. Jack Cust (17.2/31.7)
  4. Rob Deer (12.7/31.2)
  5. Mark Reynolds (11.2/30.9)
  6. Adam Dunn (15.8/28.6)
  7. Giancarlo Stanton (11.7/28.4)
  8. Ryan Howard (10.9/28.2)
  9. David Ross (10.9/27.8)
  10. Alex Avila (13.7/27.6)
  11. Jonny Gomes (10.4/27.1)
  12. Mike Napoli (12.3/27)

For those holding out hope on a Hall of Fame caliber career, that collection of names can’t leave you with much confidence. Collectively, eight All-Star appearances and only one MVP to speak of. Now that we have a nice foundation for a comparison we can eliminate names based off production alone.

David Ross and Alex Avila ultimately settled into backup catcher roles. If Gallo’s career reaches this point he will have already been a forgotten name within fantasy circles.

Jonny Gomes made a career out of deep playoff runs and being a good chemistry guy. Once again, if Gallo gets to this point his mixed league relevance would be non-existent.

For me, Russell Branyan and Mark Reynolds are essentially the same player, just from different sides of the plate. Both have had the occasional worthwhile season, but neither were able to sustain anything noteworthy. Once again, either career path would make Gallo an afterthought outside of deep league only.

After trimming the excess, we are now left with Carter, Cust, Deer, Dunn, Stanton, Howard, and Napoli.

Now we need to look closer at the batted ball profile. Over his brief major league career Gallo has produced a 0.59 GB/FB rate. His Minor League track record suggest a slight uptick is possible, but I don’t believe you’ll ever be looking at a 1.00 GB/FB type player. Gallo has also shown a propensity to pull the ball. His MLB career mark to this point has been 58.6%. His Minor League career has featured one full season (2014) below 50%.

Naturally those with the highest hopes for Gallo will be quick to point toward Howard and Stanton as a guiding light. Unfortunately, once you factor in batted ball profiles, the comparison no longer applies. Stanton (.266), Howard (.258), Napoli (.250), and Jack Cust (.242) posted the four best batting averages among the group. A big reason for this was/is their batted ball profile. Stanton (1.01), Howard (1.03), and Cust (1.06) all featured a GB/FB rate that leaned toward grounders. Napoli still has a fly ball lean, but at 0.89 – I fell that would require more of a correction from Gallo (and his 0.59 mark) than I’m comfortable projecting.

So now we are left with Deer, Carter, and Dunn.

As luck would have it, the sabermetrics we use today to evaluate plate discipline are not readily available for players of the Rob Deer era so I honestly couldn’t tell you what Rob Deers GB/FB rate was. Nor could I tell you how often he swung at pitches outside of the zone or what his swinging strike rate was. Truth be told I wanted the title of the post to mean something. Unfortunately, it’s bye-bye Rob Deer. In many ways you were my inspiration for this very post. I sincerely apologize for letting you down. And then there were two…

Chris Carter and his career 0.61 GB/FB rate is more symbolic of what Gallo is now. Dunn and his 0.73 GB/FB rate serves as a measuring stick for what Gallo could be. Neither Carter (45.1) or Dunn (44.9) feature the pull heavy approach of Gallo’s 58.6%. Carter is also the better comparison at this point in regards to O-Swing% – Carter’s career mark  27%, Adam Dunn’s 20.7. At 29.5% for Gallo, it once again looks like Chris Carter is who Gallo is and Adam Dunn is who he wants to be.

Finally, Swinging Strike rate. Gallo has shown marked improvement in that area this season. At 15%, Gallo has decreased his prior marks by over five percentage points. Once again, however, Chris Carter at 16% career looks to be the better comp than Adam Dunn and his 12.3% mark.

By all accounts, Adam Dunn was a good player. He hit 40 home runs six times and compiled 462 in his short 14 year career, along with 1,168 RBI. That total is the 2nd lowest for any player with more than 400 career home runs. Alfonso Soriano hit 412 home runs with 1,159 RBI and was predominantly a leadoff hitter.

Is it possible Adam Dunn had the worst supporting cast in major league history, or is it possible his career .237 batting average played a big factor in the lackluster RBI total? Adam Dunn represents the upside potential of what Gallo could be. To better grasp Gallo’s long-term appeal, simply ask yourself this question; “Would Adam Dunn have ever been considered a team building block?”. I’m pretty sure the answer to that is no.

Chicks Dig the Long Ball” and Chris Berman’s, “Back, Back, Back” is associated with being a successful player. We live in a highlight heavy sporting culture in terms of viewership. It’s for this very reason that Joey Gallo has put himself back on the map. Big blasts lead to a second look for people wanting to believe there is something new to the story. A small improvement is found, hope is restored, and the prospect once again arises from the ashes becoming the waiver wires most added commodity.

That script sounds eerily familiar to Chris Carter’s career in Oakland. Like Carter, Dunn, Deer, etc. I have no doubt if you wind Gallo up and give him 650 plate appearances he could run into 40 home runs or manage to hit .250. In order to do it time and time again, Gallo would have to achieve something that no one in the history of the game has done to this point.

Like Rob Deer, could Gallo be a trailblazer for a skill set like no other before him? Or is the best we can hope for a 40 home run hitter annually with an undesirable batting average and counting numbers that don’t equate as expected?

 

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Josh Coleman
Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.
Josh Coleman

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