By: TR Sullivan
Joey Gallo’s power fascinated and electrified Rangers fans almost from the
moment he was announced as the 39th overall pick in the 2012 Major League draft.
Gallo was born and grew up in the greater Las Vegas area, part of a brotherhood of young players from southern Nevada including Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper. He worked out at a local batting cage owned by his mentor Jason Giambi. His father Tony Gallo worked there as a pitching instructor and Kris Bryant’s father Mike was one of Joey’s youth coaches. Harper and Joey played on the same club travel circuit.
Gallo played high school baseball at Bishop Gorman, where he was selected as the Nevada Gatorade State Player of the Year. Gallo led Bishop Gorman to a state title as a senior while hitting .500 with 21 home runs and 80 RBI that season. He also pitched a no-hitter on the mound.
Gallo’s professional career began at the Arizona Rookie League level in the summer of ’12 after signing with the Rangers. He played in 43 games for the Rangers’ Rookie League team, hitting .293 with a league-leading 18 home run, 43 RBI and a .733 slugging percentage.
In 2013, Gallo won the Joe Bauman Award as the top home run hitter in the Minor Leagues and one year later as the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Futures Game in Minneapolis after hitting a two-run home run. More memorable was a batting practice home run that smashed a windshield of a truck being displayed on the concourse at Target Field.
Gallo’s bat carried him to the big leagues and his debut on June 2 was impressive. He was 3-for-4 with a home run that landed in the upper right-field deck at the Ballpark in Arlington during the Rangers 4-2 win over the White Sox. The Rangers knew when Gallo connected, he would hit the ball a long way.
There were two issues. One was finding the right position. Gallo was drafted as a third base, but that spot was taken by future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre. Gallo bounced around all four corner spots for finally settling into the outfield.
The other issue was Gallo didn’t always connect. His strikeout totals have been almost impressive as his home runs. Over his first two full seasons in the Majors, in 2017-18, Gallo hit 81 home runs but also struck out 204 times. He had a .516 slugging percentage and a .208 batting average. He had 70 singles, 11 fewer than his home runs as Gallo found it difficult to find holes in the drastic shifts employed against him
Gallo flourished in 2019 while being used exclusively in the outfield. He was selected to his first All-Star Game and hit a home run in his only at-bat off Giants left-hander Will Smith. He missed more than half of the season because of a wrist injury but hit 22 home runs in 70 games.
Gallo hit just 10 home runs in 2020 while battling the pitching friendly dimensions of the Rangers new ballpark. But he also won his first Gold Glove for his defensive play in right field.
TR Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers for 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.Com. He retired after a 40-year career in journalism that began in 1981 for the Denison Herald. You can follow TR at https://twitter.com/