Rangers' Gallo Poised for Big Year in 2020

Chris Halicke

The Rangers are pivoting away from a three-year rebuild and looking to become a playoff contender again. They've been very active this winter, and while they've missed on star players like Anthony Rendon, they've still managed to significantly upgrade multiple spots on the roster.

The starting rotation has seen the largest makeover, which include quality arms Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles to round out the end of the rotation and two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber. Added to those additions are Robinson Chirinos behind the plate and Todd Frazier at third base, which give the Rangers much better options than its 2019 counterpart. 

Manager Chris Woodward spoke with the media at Rangers mini camp on Tuesday and addressed the external additions and internal improvements this team has gone through over the past few months.

"After talking to the front office, we had money to spend and we wanted to make a playoff team," Woodward said. "We felt like if some of our younger guys on our team could take some pretty significant steps forward...we can depend on some of those guys to fill legitimate roles for us. We added two legitimate guys and traded for a two-time Cy Young winner, we've got a pretty formidable pitching staff now to go with some offensive players. 

"I'm sure we're still going to add a few more pieces, I'm not sure, but we expect to contend. Whether that's ahead of schedule or behind schedule, we're not rebuilding. We expect to compete. We expect to contend."

The Rangers' biggest addition could come from within. Joey Gallo, who was limited to 70 games in 2019, is healthy and ready to go for 2020. Gallo missed time in 2019 due to a strained oblique in June and then a broken hamate bone ended his season in late July.

In his 2019 season, Gallo turned a corner in his development. He made adjustments under Chris Woodward's new regime and drastically improved his offensive numbers and overall approach at the plate. In his limited time, he slashed .253/.389/.598 with 22 home runs and 49 RBI's. 

"He believes he's capable of quite a bit," Woodward said. "I think the ceiling for him is much higher than even before, which was pretty high. I think he looks at himself in a different way now. He looks at himself as more of a complete player, not the guy who hits .200 and hits 40 homers. He knows he can get on base, he knows he can be as productive of a player as anybody in the Major Leagues – to go with what would've been probably Gold Glove defense in the outfield."

That spot in the outfield is shifting yet again for Gallo. After spending the last two seasons primarily at left field and center field, the Rangers plan on employing Gallo in right field in 2020. 

Gallo definitely fits the bill for the modern right fielder and he seems to be very comfortable with the move to his new spot.

"The run from the first base dugout to right field is a lot shorter," Gallo joked with reporters at Rangers mini camp. "Other than that, growing up, you talk about right field – power arm, power bat, pretty good athlete, big guy – I always felt like 'I'm a right fielder.'"

The Rangers employed Nomar Mazara as their right fielder for the past four seasons. After a trading him to the White Sox, the Rangers automatically viewed Gallo as the perfect replacement for him. 

Woodward spoke very highly of his new right fielder with a strong statement.

"He could be one of the best players in baseball."

Experts at MLB Network also think highly of Joey Gallo. He debuted at number 8 on their list of Top 10 Right Fielders Right Now.

"It's great to be recognized," Gallo said. "When you work as hard as I do, when you're a competitor, you want to be up there with the best in the league. It's definitely an honor to be on that list."

Gallo is also excited about the revamped rotation, especially about having a two-time Cy Young winner.

"I'm excited to not have to face Kluber anymore. That's about ten less strikeouts per year for me," Gallo said. "They're all guys that give you a chance to win games. As an offensive player, that's what you want. You want a guy that's going to go out there and give you a chance. All of those guys give us more than a chance to win games. That's exciting."

Gallo has also noticed the shift by the organization from rebuilding to contending. 

"When you build a billion-dollar stadium, it's probably good to win in it," Gallo said. "In my three years here, we've been middle of the pack or below .500 – in more of a rebuilding stage. I'm excited that we're taking the steps to go out and put our best lineup out there, try to sign the best guys and win games. That's exciting for me and a lot of guys."

The Rangers are still active in ways to add to the roster. They've been tied to free agent Nicholas Castellanos for a while now. They've also been in contact with the Rockies about Nolan Arenado, who's situation took a couple dramatic turns on Monday night. 

If the Rangers get the same Joey Gallo from 2019, the Rangers are gaining a superstar-caliber player. His defense and build is the perfect fit for right field and should have a better chance at keeping him healthy rather than employing him in center field. 

Whether the Rangers add more pieces or not, the expectations are high in Arlington. If the Rangers are to get to where they want to get to, Gallo will have to be a part of it. And after a year of working well with Chris Woodward and the coaching staff, Gallo understands what is expected of him and the team.

"I think in the second year, you have that connection, you have that feel," Gallo said. "Now it's about going out and winning games."

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