Can You Trust Joey Gallo in Your Fantasy Baseball Playoffs?
The power has always been there for Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo. The hulking left-handed swinger has been a masher ever since he came to the Majors in 2015. He has the ability to hit the ball farther than virtually everyone else in baseball, including guys like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
It's unfortunate that Gallo has never had a good enough season to warrant his inclusion in the MLB Home Run Derby, because that would be a sight to see.
However, Gallo has been a three true-outcome player for his entire Major League career -- he walks, strikes out, or goes deep. He has a career .205 batting average and has struck out in 37.6% of his plate appearances while walking 13.7% of the time. His inability to hit left-handed pitching has also hurt him and prevented him from becoming one of the truly great offensive weapons in baseball.
But in the second half of the season, we've seen a different Joey Gallo. We've seen a Joey Gallo that is actually putting his bat on the ball. We're seeing a Joey Gallo that has produced as one of the 10 best hitters in baseball. So as a fantasy owner, is Gallo's second half surge something you can trust?
In his first full season, Gallo proved that he was a reliable source of dingers, smashing 41 bombs with 80 RBI and 85 runs scored for the Rangers. Of course, he also batted .209, but did have a .333 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .537. That slugging percentage is even more incredible when you consider batting average is a component of slugging, and his average was among the lowest in baseball.
Last year, only two players, Judge and Stanton, had a better isolated power (ISO) than Gallo (.327), the number that truly saved Gallo's season from being a disaster.
Certainly there is a place on a roster for a player like that, but his low average and high strikeout totals (36.8% strikeout rate) meant that, when he wasn't hitting bombs, he was making a lot of outs.
Hot Second Half
This year, Gallo is sporting a slash line of .210/.321/.500, numbers similar to last year, with 34 homers, 78 RBI and 73 runs scored. His wOBA (.348) is slightly down from last year (.364), as is his ISO, which was .327 last year and is .290 this season.
But it has been a tale of two halves for Gallo here in 2018. Below are his first half numbers, compared to his digits since the All Star Break.
Gallo has increased his batting average 90 points, and his on-base percentage and slugging percentage have followed. His isolated power is through the roof in the second half, and his walk and strikeout rates have been going in better directions.
He's looked like a more well-rounded MLB hitter over the last two months. The big question is whether or not this is for real.
Can You Trust It?
Anytime a player increases his walk rate and decreases his strikeout rate to the degree to which Gallo has in the second half, it's a good thing. The power has always been there, but for the last six weeks, he hasn't been killing fantasy owners in the average and whiff departments.
The biggest change that indicates this may be something you can rely on over the final month of the season is his performance against left-handed pitching.
For his career, Gallo has hit .210/.306/.485 against lefties, and in the first half of this season, he hit .174/.269/.446 against them. In the second half, those numbers have improved to .353/.371/.853. That's a huge improvement.
The other thing to remember is Gallo is still just 24 years old. He's yet to hit his prime and is still making adjustments and improvements. Whether these adjustments stick long-term remains to be seen. After all, Gallo has essentially been the same type of player throughout his entire professional career, from the minors to today, and one tends to trust the larger sample size over the smaller.
That being said, fantasy owners should feel good about the performance they're getting from him right now, and he's at least dependable from a power perspective down the stretch. Anything you get in the average department should be considered a bonus.
The real key is whether Gallo continues his improved hitting through September, and whether that makes him a viable target for dynasty owners now in advance of the 2019 season. He's someone to watch over the final four weeks of the season, especially for dynasty leagues.