Gallo enjoys breakthrough performance
Rangers' third-base prospect homers, named MVP of All-Star Futures Game
MINNEAPOLIS -- Rangers third baseman Joey Gallo was the biggest star before the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game, so it was only fitting that he was the biggest star during the actual contest.
After electrifying the Target Field crowd -- and damaging a Chevrolet pickup truck on the concourse behind the right-field stands -- during batting practice, Gallo struck out in his first two Futures Game at-bats. But he made the most of his third opportunity, unleashing a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the U.S. team a 3-2 lead that held up for its fifth straight victory.
Gallo was named Futures Game MVP, following Nick Castellanos (Tigers) and Matt Davidson (D-backs) as the third straight third baseman to win the award. He finished the day 1-for-4 after popping out to center field in the eighth.
"This is definitely my most memorable home run," said Gallo, who set a Rookie-level Arizona League record with 18 homers in his pro debut, led the Minor Leagues with 40 last year in his first full pro season and is tied for the Minor League lead with 31 again in 2014. "To hit one in front of 37,000 people, definitely."
Batting fifth in the U.S. lineup as a designated hitter, Gallo chased a Domingo German (Marlins) slider in the second inning and took a breaking ball for a called third strike against Luis Severino (Yankees) in the fourth. Michael Feliz (Astros) fell behind in the count 2-0 against Gallo in the sixth before the slugger drove a 95-mph fastball into the second deck in right field.
The announced distance on Gallo's home run was 419 feet, which several press-box observers thought was too conservative.
"This is the first I saw of Joey, and he came as advertised," said U.S. manager Tom Kelly, who guided the Twins to two World Series championships. "He hit the ball a long way today and looks like a very talented guy. He's fun to watch."
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, who shares the Minor League home run lead with Gallo, has known him for years and grew up playing with Gallo's older brother. Bryant said the Futures Game was just business as usual for Gallo.
"It seems like any ball he hits he can hit out of the park," Bryant said. "He did it today and it won the game for us."
Six-foot-five and 205 pounds, Gallo generates tremendous bat speed, leverage and strength from the left side of the plate. Though he's admittedly prone to strikeouts, no one in the Minors and few in the Majors can match his raw power. A supplemental first-round Draft pick out of a Las Vegas high school in 2012, Gallo has made significant strides as a hitter from his first full pro season to his second.
A year ago, Gallo batted .245 with 165 strikeouts and 48 walks in 446 plate appearances. He has exhibited better discipline in 2014, hitting .307 with 113 whiffs and 65 walks in 362 trips to the plate, which helped him earn a promotion to Double-A as a 20-year-old in early June.
"I never thought I'd be in Double-A this quick," said Gallo, who also has made strides with his third-base defense. "Especially after the year I had last year, a tough year. I knew I could hit home runs, but it's been a surprise."
As impressive as Gallo's Futures Game-winning home run may have been, it paled in comparison with the show he put on in batting practice. He led all players with 15 home runs, many of the tape-measure variety. Gallo reached the third deck in right-center with his first swing and hit five more balls there. He also hit three blasts to right field that carried completely over the stands and onto the concourse, including one that smashed the windshield of a pickup truck.
"My first swing, I was up there just swinging and I hit a home run and heard people go kind of like, 'Ohhhhhh,'" Gallo said. "I said, 'I might as well put on a show. People are paying good money to be here, so I'll give them what I want.' I heard I broke a windshield, and I do feel bad about that."
Gallo's BP display left onlookers around the batting cage gasping and giggling. His Futures Game teammates were awed as well.
"It's stupid," Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said. "He's got stupid power. On the game-winning home run, it didn't even look like he got all of that ball and he put it in the second deck."