The injury-riddled Texas Rangers are set to embark on a road trip that could determine how much longer they remain relevant in the American League West. Nine games in 12 days against every AL West team the Rangers are staring up at in the standings — Seattle, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels.
Although the Rangers are close to being 10 games out in the AL West, they’re less than five games back in the AL Wild Card race. Both deficits are still manageable at this stage, but one bad losing streak could do them in.
If that becomes the case, then it’s time to start talking about 2015. Here’s a name you should get used to hearing if the Rangers head downhill — Joey Gallo.
It doesn’t make sense to burn Gallo's first Major League season on what is looking more and more like a lost year.
Right now, Gallo might be the hottest prospect in the Rangers organization, or in any organization. It’s not just because he’s emerged as a Top 10 prospect in baseball. It’s because of the dizzying pace with which he hits home runs, something the Rangers truly lack right now.
Perhaps you've seen the video of Gallo’s Double A debut in Frisco. He hit a walk-off home run, and it wasn’t luck. It was Gallo’s 62nd home run since the start of the 2013 season. He hit another after his debut and how has 63 home runs in his last 171 minor league games. During that span Gallo has hit a home run every 2.71 games and every 9.3 at-bats.
For some perspective, the home run leader in the AL thus far is a former Ranger, Nelson Cruz. He’s hit a home run every 11.1 at bats.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the minors or the majors, Gallo is downright impressive. Even his teammates know it.
“His power is unreal,” Frisco teammate Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s like watching a video game, man. You just wait for him to get up. If you see runners on, you start feeling bad for the other pitcher.”
The only hitter the Rangers have right now who even comes close to scaring opposing pitchers is third baseman Adrian Beltre. Heaven forbid Beltre ends up on the DL at this point.
So, of course, the temptation is to say, ‘Hey, let’s call this Gallo kid up and try to salvage this season.”
Let me tell you why that’s a bad idea.
First, Gallo is no Ken Griffey Jr., who was called up at 19. Gallo is productive, but he strikes out quite a bit (239 times in those 171 games). That’s too much at any level.
Second, Gallo is just 20 years old. And even though he’s been tearing it up at Single A, he's still untested. His promotion to Double A will determine if Gallo can consistently handle better pitching.
Third, where do you put Gallo if you call him up? He plays one of the few positions where the Rangers have a healthy, steady veteran — third base.
Finally, if you call Gallo up you start the clock on his Major League career. That’s financially important. Teams control a player’s major league rights for six or seven years and that clock starts the second you call him up. It doesn’t make sense to burn a season on what is looking more and more like a lost year.
Gallo is not ready for the show, as much as his numbers tantalize. But this is how good franchises stay good — they identify potentially great players, nurture them and call them up when the time is right. That may not be until 2016, when Beltre enters the final year of his contract.
But if the Rangers keep heading downhill and Gallo keeps pummeling Double A pitching, expect the temptation to get harder to resist.