Gallo using offseason to get back on track

After difficult '15, Rangers' top prospect focusing on conditioning

Gallo using offseason to get back on track

ARLINGTON -- Infielder Joey Gallo finished the year as the Rangers' No. 1 Minor League prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

He is also looking at more time in the Minor Leagues as he tries to build on a difficult 2015. After beginning his professional career with three impressive seasons, Gallo's development was knocked off kilter this year by an unexpected series of events.

His season began with three lost weeks after he underwent surgery on his left ankle. He had an excellent first month at Double-A Frisco, but a planned promotion to Triple-A was derailed by Adrian Beltre's thumb injury. Instead of reporting to Round Rock, Gallo spent June with the Rangers trying to handle big league pitching and playing third base.

"When Adrian went down at the end of May with the thumb, internally we had the discussion," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We talked openly that. Hey, Joey was the biggest upside player that we had when you're talking about taking Adrian out of the lineup. We acknowledged at the time that [Gallo] was not 100 percent ready, and if not for the injury, he was ready to move up to Triple-A and not the big leagues."

Gallo's bases-clearing triple

Gallo, who was also a September callup, played in 36 games total with the Rangers, hitting .204 with six home runs, 14 RBIs and a .417 slugging percentage. He also struck out 57 times in 123 plate appearances. His rate of one strikeout for every 2.16 plate appearances is the highest in a season in the American League for one player with a minimum of 100 plate appearances since the designated hitter was adopted in 1973.

Gallo, who turns 22 on Nov. 19, also struggled at Triple-A during his two months at Round Rock in July and August, hitting .195 with 14 home runs, 32 RBIs and a .450 slugging percentage. The early surgery didn't help. Gallo said he spent the rest of the year trying to regain the strength in his legs and never did catch up. That is why he plans to spend this winter in Las Vegas on a rigorous conditioning program rather than play winter ball.

"I thought [Gallo] handled the challenge well," Daniels said. "He helped us win a couple games. Ultimately, the big leagues are hard. They're really hard. The game's really hard. I think he will ultimately be better for all the challenges he faced this year, but he's got more development time ahead of him."

Gallo remains critical to the Rangers' future. He is one of three top offensive prospects who the Rangers are counting on to have an impact in the next 1-2 years. The others are outfielders Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson.

The Rangers have several key players getting up there in age. Texas goes into next season with six of nine projected starters age 30 or older: Mitch Moreland (30), Prince Fielder (31), Robinson Chirinos (31), Shin-Soo Choo (33), Josh Hamilton (34) and Beltre (36).

Gallo makes his first CF catch

Gallo has played multiple positions in the Minor Leagues, but mainly third base. That may be where the next opening is, because Beltre is a free agent after next season. Moreland is as well, although Gallo has played just eight games at first base in the Minors.

Gallo has played a combined 40 games in the outfield in his career and has shown he can handle left field. But Choo is signed for five more years, and Hamilton has two more left, although the Rangers' financial involvement in the remainder of his contract is minimal. That gives Texas sufficient flexibility if Hamilton is unable to overcome the physical issues he has been dealing with the past two years.

Third base appears to be the likely destination for Gallo at this point, although the Rangers aren't agonizing over that yet. The goal now is to get him back to Triple-A and get his offense going again. Gallo may be the Rangers' top Minor League prospect, but there is still much work ahead.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.