Prospect #22 - 3B Austin Gallagher

The Dodgers have a well-mapped out plan to ease draftees through the Dodgers system in a gentle, orderly way. High School players move into the Arizona Rookie League as do some college players. However, most of those taken from the college ranks begin in Ogden or Great Lakes, then move along to Inland Empire and so on.

But some times circumstances combine to thrust young players into action at a higher level and that is what happened to our Prospect #22, Austin Gallagher.
Chosen in the third round of the 2007 draft, Gallagher was, surprisingly enough, assigned to Ogden. No matter how prized a high school prospect is, they almost rarely fare well as beginners in the Pioneer League which is filled with players who have professional and considerable college experience.

The decision was made because prized 18-year-old third baseman, Pedro Baez, was set to open in the Gulf Coast League and they wanted both he and Gallagher in the lineups on a regular basis. So, as Tim Hallgren, the director of amateur scouting put it, "We sent Gallagher to Ogden hoping he could hit a couple out".

When he got there Austin found himself the only recent high school grad on the team. "I felt like a freshman among seniors," he told LADugout. And when he got off to a stumbling start, the "I told you so's" nodded their heads and soon were joined as doubters by Austin himself.

"The pressure was on," he says. "Whenever I'd do something wrong, I started panicking. I thought 'What do I do?'. You have to work hard and take it to the next level. Up there you're not going to hit. 500."

He had in high school back in Mannheim Township, Pa., which is located in the southeastern part of the state in beautiful, rolling hill country where you're just as likely to see an Amish buggy on the roadway as a Toyota. There he was considered the greatest player in his school's history.

He had certainly dominated the Mannheim Township High School record book before becoming a Dodger.

He graduated with the top two batting averages in school history (.587 in 2007 and .540 in 2006), and the top two slugging averages (1.159, 2007 and 1.011, 2006), the top two on-base percentages (.663 in 2007 and .634 in 2006). While the school doesn't keep on-base plus slugging, just for information in his junior and senior seasons he had stunning OPS totals of 1.822 and 1.645.  

Other records include most hits (47) in 29 games in 2006; most home runs (10 and 8); most total bases 88 and 73; second (13 and third (11) in doubles; and third with 35 RBI in 2006 -- it sounds like Babe Ruth playing in the Three-I League.  

But, of course, he wasn't hitting against Pioneer League pitching and even though he had impressive credentials, scout Clair Rierson worried some.  

"You know, I don't hear much talk about him among the other scouts," he confided to John Barr, the director of Eastern scouting for the Dodgers, who had joined him in looking at Gallagher. "Great," answered Barr. "That means we may have a chance to get him. Let's keep it that way."

Gallagher had another advantage along with his athletic ability. His dad Glenn was a third-round pick in his day as well after starring at Clemson in football and baseball. In fact, Austin's first name is also Glenn leading to some confusion when he was picked but he's always gone by his middle name.

Glenn made it to AA in the Toronto system, then ultimately turned to college coaching. So, Austin had been around the college practices as he learned the game and knew a great deal about the work ethic needed to succeed.

Austin applied what he had learned in high school and soon the hits began falling in. Pitchers began adjusting, too, so he wound up with a very respectable .284 average with four home runs. He definitely proved be belonged.

The Dodgers feel the good things have just begun. He has the body at 6-5, 210, for power and the left-handed stroke with lift to deliver. They think he'll be a hitter of note as he moves upward.

The notion is he may not make it as a third baseman, though. He has good hands and his arm is okay but his range is suspect. He might well go to first or possibly to left eventually.

Although he's most comfortable where he's stationed, he's not the type to complain if they decide to move him. "All I've ever wanted is to play big league baseball and I'll do what it takes to get there."

That was apparent in 2008 when he was jumped over Great Lakes to High-A Inland Empire and he responded with a .293 average, a .349 on-base percentage and 55 runs batted in plus a .805 OPS-- all at age 19. All this despite a mini-funk that saw him hit .143 over the final 10 games.

He played 108 games at third base and 21 at first, showing that his fielding has kept up with his hitting by improving his fielding average and Runs Factor in each over his rookie season.

A natural left-handed hitter, he raked lefties for a .359 average and an OPS of .920. Pretty much like a normal teenager, he seems a bit inconsistent.

Unlike a teenager, he hit .355 with runners on base and .320 with runners in scoring position. Go figure.

The thinking at the end of the '08 season was that Gallagher could get a shot a Double-A pitching in Chattanooga, but he found himself dropping back to Low-A Great Lakes, as did a number of others.

As if that wasn't enough to dampen his spirits, he suffered a shoulder injury that limited him to 60 games with the Loons. He finished his short season with a .257 average, three homers and 30 runs batted in.

So in effect, he hit .284 at High-Rookie Ogden, .293 at High-A Inland Empire and then .257 at Low-A Great Lakes. Sounds as if some sort of GPS in his equipment bag might stand him in good stead.

After his first three seasons in professional baseball, Gallagher will begin 2010 at the tender age of 21. He is no less the prospect he was when he was selected in the No. 3 round in 2007 -- in fact, he is certainly highly regarded.

Where he will pick up his progress in 2010 is not known. He is still very young and they could well be determined to move him up gradually, then again, he could see action in Tennessee before the seasons ends.

His record:

3B AUSTIN GALLAGHER
6-5 210 BL TR
Born-November 16, 1988 in Lancaster, PA
Obtained- Selected in third round of 2008 draft

year	team   ave   obp  ops   gm   ab   r   h  2b 3b hr  bi sb
2007  Ogden  .284  .346  .747  55  197  28  56  11  0  4  17  0
2008  IEmp   .293  .349  .805  78  307  36  90  33  1  5  55  1
2009  GLakes .257  .319  .664  60  226  28  58  11  0  3  30  1
---------------------------------------------------------------
 Totals      .290  .348  .783 133  504  64 146  44  1  9  72  1    	
 

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