Joey Gallo crushes home run against Indians, but can he stick in Rangers' lineup?

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Wednesday April 5th, 2017

Before you watch Joey Gallo crush one of the young season’s longest dingers, think of the long homers we’ve been treated to just three days into the season. Madison Bumgarner smashed two, one a line drive and one a towering shot; Miguel Sano hit Target Field’s second deck with this bomb; Carlos Correa hit one 440 feet into the Houston night; and Khris Davis continued his power surge from last season by clobbering two long homers to lead the A’s over the Angels. These are all impressive, monstrous home runs.

Now let’s go ahead and watch Gallo’s mammoth blast into orbit.

Different, right? Just in case you didn’t see it land, here’s visual evidence of how Gallo didn’t just leave the yard, he almost left Globe Life Park entirely.

Of the myriad promising young power hitters in the game, Gallo may be the strongest of the lot. The home run checked in at 443 feet and a dizzying 115.6 mph exit velocity, the hardest hit home run of the young season. Fangraphs grades the 6' 5", 235-pound Gallo with 80 power on a scale of 80. He’s only hit eight big league homers, but four of them can be found on YouTube with descriptors like “crushed” and “moonshot.“

As Tom Verducci documented last week, baseball is experiencing a power surge that it hasn’t seen in over a decade, and the source of that power is coming from young players. Gallo could be another addition to the group of young bombers, but he needs to find a stable place in a crowded lineup.

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Pundits have salivated over the 23-year-old slugger since he was drafted 39th overall in 2012, but outside of a few long home runs in his 140 career at bats, Gallo hasn’t offered the Rangers a reason to keep him on the big league club. After a promising if inconsistent call-up in 2015 that included this towering blast off of Clayton Kershaw, Gallo was a non-factor in 2016, logging just one hit in 25 at bats. Manager Jeff Banister indicated in spring training that he’d rather the big bopper see more at bats in Triple A than waste away on the Rangers' bench, especially after Gallo couldn’t hit much of anything at the big league level last year.

A calf injury to Adrian Beltre allowed Gallo an opportunity to start this season in the bigs, even if it’s unclear whether the Rangers prefer him at third base, in the outfield or at designated hitter. Banister has the unenviable task of finding regular playing time for a host of promising young players—Jurickson Profar, Delino DeShields Jr. and Nomar Mazara among them—and now Gallo joins them. If it all works out, Gallo looks like a young Jim Thome. If it doesn’t, he’ll end up a poor man’s Russell Branyan.

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With the uptick in home runs in MLB comes a significant increase in strikeouts, but even Gallo’s strikeout numbers are alarming. He struck out 150 times in just 105 games last year at Triple A Round Rock and an astonishing 19 times in his 25 big-league at bats last season. Texas has been extremely protective of Gallo in any trade discussions—most were surprised when he wasn’t part of the package used to acquired Jonathan Lucroy at last year’s deadline—and it’s still too soon to declare that time is “running out” on the young slugger.

Yet, it’s still unclear where he fits. Bannister needs to find Profar, a more versatile contributor than Gallo, more time, whether it’s in leftfield, in the infield or at designated hitter. Profar is a natural middle infielder, but the team features Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. Those players aren’t being replaced anytime soon, and it’s going to cost Texas’s young legion of stars needed at bats. If Gallo can’t cut down on his Ks, then it’s hard to envision how he sees time ahead of Profar and DeShields now that Mazara is the everyday rightfielder.

The baseball world would benefit from more of Gallo’s Herculean homers, and perhaps we’ll get a few more before Beltre returns. After that, it’s unclear when, and in what capacity, Gallo will contribute.

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