By: Noah Wright
I think we’ve all ragged about Joey Gallo in one way or another. There are plenty of things about Gallo that make him an interesting character. For one, he’s the definition of modern three true outcomes, he had nearly 100 home runs before 1 sac fly, he is one of the most shifted on batters in the MLB.
But Gallo has never broken out fully in the MLB. Sure he’s had some solid seasons, but nothing that that has lived up to the potential he had in the minors. Before he made the MLB, Gallo was a top 10 MLB prospect with huge pop. Gallo has shown the huge pop, but his highest OPS in a full MLB season would be the lowest among any of his minor league seasons.
This year seems different though. Gallo looks like a near superstar through his first 109 plate appearances of 2019. For starters, he currently has a 6% hard hit rate. That is over half of what it was in 2018 at 12.6%. With a low soft contact rate, that means his hard hit rate has skyrocketed, like it has. Currently, his hard hit percentage is at 66%. Gallo is also striking out less, while walking more in 2019. He has a 19.3 walk percentage to a 34.9 strikeout percentage. Both of those would be career lows if he keeps it up through an entire season. Overall, Gallo has a .264/.404/.678 line. He is the owner of a 171 wRC+, and an ISO over .400 (.414). Even defensively he looks better. Before 2019, Joey Gallo never had a positive dWAR. Now entrenched in left field, Gallo seems to have found a defensive home. He already has a .1 dWAR and 2 DRS in LF.
However there’s some indications that this hot start is just a fluke. Gallo is pulling the ball more than ever. He has a 58.0% pull rate, which would be 13.1% higher than it was in 2018. He is also pushing the ball 14% of the time. Eventually, teams are going to adapt to him pulling the ball even more than usual. Gallo is also hitting more ground balls than usual, and his 47.6 home run to flyball ratio is unsustainable.
Gallo could easily keep up his production. He has the power, and plate discipline to do so. However, he can’t rely on the home run every single at bat. This is one of Joey Gallo’s main problems. He is an all or nothing swinger, but 10 of Joey Gallo’s 23 hits have been for long balls. Gallo has to also lower his pull rate. 58% is likely unsustainable, but it can’t be above 45% like it was in 2018. At one point in July of ‘18, it was at just 33.35. I’m not saying he has to get it that low to be successful, but if he can get his pull % right around, or below 40%, while also making hard contact most of the time, 2019 could be Joey Gallo’s breakout season.