You might have heard that Joey Gallo hit a massive home run the other day. That was his 11th of the season, in the second inning, and by the time that game was over Gallo had his 12th and a tie for the lead in homers throughout all of professional baseball, sharing it with White Sox slugger Jose Abreu.
Before this season, the consensus was that if Gallo was going to advance as a prospect, even with the ridiculous power, a few things would have to happen. First, Gallo would need to bring his (frankly terrible) 37 percent strikeout rate down, his 10.8 percent walk rate up, and show signs of being able to wait for the perfect pitch to drive. A year later, and a level up, Gallo’s reduced the strikeout rate to a merely-bad 27.7 percent, increased his walk rate to an above-average 16.8 percent, and has 12 homers, four doubles and three triples in 31 games.
Of course, some of this increase in walk rate is due to fear, as opposing pitchers have so far shown a fair amount of willingness to pitch around Gallo, but he also isn’t swinging at nearly as much junk out of the zone. Currently, Gallo sports a triple-slash line of .327/.431/.745, numbers around 100 points higher than his last season totals. Part of this improvement comes from an off-season swing adjustment: Gallo used to have a large extraneous motion in his swing, making it harder for him to adjust to a pitch mid-swing. He’s cut down on that load remarkably so far this year, without sacrificing the prodigious power he’s known for.
Not only has Gallo shown remarkable improvements with the bat, but the 6’5” left-hander has managed to step up his defense at third enough that there’s a very real possibility he could reach the majors at a premium position. While a move to first (or the outfield) could still be in the cards, Gallo’s current abilities at the hot corner are not to be doubted. In the same game as the tape-measure homer, Gallo took what looked to be a sure walk-off base hit away from Courtney Hawkins of the Winston-Salem Dash, making an athletic snag a few feet above his head.
If Gallo keeps hitting (and walking) like this, it would be easy to imagine him in Frisco sooner, rather than later. Some of that may depend on fellow power hitter Ryan Rua, and whether he’s ready to vacate the Frisco hot corner for Round Rock.
One of the slightly less-heralded names in the Rangers’ ever-producing middle-infield pipeline, Hanser Alberto is still only a 21-year-old shortstop in the high-A Carolina League, two full years under the league average. Alberto actually saw AA time last season, but was reassigned to Myrtle Beach when Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor were promoted last August. In Frisco, Alberto only hit .213/.253/.287, but has improved upon that in his stay in the Carolina League this season, hitting .275/.302/.363.
Of course, that improvement still isn’t quite what is needed or expected out of Alberto. A solid defensive shortstop, his calling card had previously been his bat, and his ability to make solid contact to all fields. Alberto can get the bat on nearly every pitch, including ones he’d be better served by letting them go by. Though he’s only struck out 10 times in 26 games, he’s also only walked thrice, a not-exactly-desirable ratio, and the rise in batting average should be greater, considering that he’s facing less experienced pitching than he was in the Texas League last season.
Alberto could be a trade piece later in the summer, with the Rangers seemingly set at shortstop for several years down the line. In any case, he’ll absolutely need to hit more while keeping up the improved defensive profile.
Honestly, you might be forgiven for saying “Who?” to the name Andrew Faulkner. The left-hander was drafted by the Rangers out of a South Carolina high school in 2011 and hadn’t really made much of an appearance on any radars. Faulkner spent two years with Hickory, both starting and relieving, before being promoted to Myrtle Beach this season. So far, Faulkner is putting up the best numbers of his career at the highest level he’s seen. He’s started four games and pitched in seven, putting up a 1.80 ERA across 30 innings, striking out 32 and walking only seven.
Faulkner works in the low-to-mid 90s, usually, showing a 92-94 fastball in one of his last outings. The fastball is offset by a high-70s to low-80s slider, and a rare mid-80s splitter, which is some of the reason for his current success in the Carolina League. Not many A-ball pitchers throw a splitter, and especially not with any kind of consistency.
With his high-effort delivery and limited repertoire, Faulkner will probably find his chance at the highest level in the bullpen, where it’s easy to imagine him adding a few miles per hour to the fastball, which could make the splitter even more of a weapon. Though currently he can make high-A hitters miss, it does need work before it would be a viable high-level pitch, but the potential exists.