Q&A with Rangers 1st-round pick Joey Gallo

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Through his first nine games with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers, slugging third baseman Joey Gallo is 9-for-26 with seven extra-base hits (including four homers) and 15 walks. Lone Star Dugout sat down with the 39th overall pick in this year's MLB Draft for a Q&A.

Although the rookie-level Arizona League season is less than two weeks old, Surprise Rangers third baseman Joey Gallo is proving to be among the circuit's most talented––and productive––hitters.

Through nine professional games, the left-handed hitting slugger is 9-for-26, and seven of those hits have been for extra bases––two doubles, a triple, and four home runs. He's drawn 15 walks and struck out nine times.

Overall, Gallo has a .346/.585/.962 slash line in the small sample. He currently leads the Arizona League in home runs (by one) and walks (by five).

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound prospect has also been a bit erratic at third base thus far, committing seven errors in his first nine professional games.

When Scout.com National Baseball Expert (and former Rangers professional scout) Frankie Piliere scouted Gallo at the Perfect Game National Showcase last summer, he pointed out the prospect's plus-plus raw power and arm strength. Those elite tools have both been on display early in the Arizona League campaign, and he's also shown the ability to take a walk. On June 23 against the Peoria Mariners, Gallo walked in all five of his plate appearances––going 0-for-0 for the game.

A more in-depth current scouting report of Gallo and his teammates––along with scouting video––will be posted in the coming days.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 18-year-old infielder for a Q&A session after his June 29 game against the Indians, in which he was 1-for-3 with a solo home run and a base on balls.

Jason Cole: First of all, take me through tonight's home run at-bat. You seemed to get a fastball down and golfed it out to dead center.

Joey Gallo: I got down in the count, actually, 1-2. He shook off a few pitches, and I figured he was going to try and throw it by me. He ended up throwing me a fastball down low––by my ankles––and I just was ready for it. I went out and got it, and it ended up sailing over.

Cole: You guys have now played about two weeks of games out here. How do you feel it's going so far? What are your thoughts on your performance?

Gallo: It's tough. It's definitely a grind. But I think we're all getting better. I'm getting better at the plate, a little bit. We're all learning more things and getting a better feel for the game. It's a fast-paced game. It's slowing down a little bit for me, but I've still got a long way to go.

Cole: Obviously the Arizona League is a somewhat unique brand of baseball, as its a big mixture of high school, college, and international prospects often making their professional debuts. What are your impressions on the style of game out here? How different is it from what you're accustomed to?

Gallo: It's different. You can't always speak English to the guys you're playing in the field with (laughs). It's kind of tough to communicate with them. But they're all good guys, so it's fun playing with them. But I mean, it's kind of about winning down here. In showcases, it's about me, me, me. When we're playing here, we're trying to win ballgames and hopefully make the playoffs. So that's actually a lot different.

Cole: How much do you enjoy the competitive nature of all the games now?

Gallo: It's a lot nicer. It's definitely easier to play to win instead of playing to hit a home run every at-bat like a showcase would be.

Cole: Have you picked up any Spanish from your teammates so far?

Gallo: Just some bad words (laughs). So I couldn't really share those with you. That's about it.

Cole: Go back to the draft. What was it like to hear your name called by the Rangers? Tell me about that day.

Gallo: It was a special day for me. Ivan Rodriguez actually called my name out on the draft day, so that was really cool to have a Hall of Fame guy call my name out. I was really proud to be picked by the Rangers. The organization is a great organization. It's very good tradition. So I couldn't be happier.

Cole: Your area scout was Todd Guggiana. What was your relationship with him like, and how much contact did you have with him this year?

Gallo: He came to my house and we talked. We didn't really communicate that much. He kind of laid low with me a little bit. I talked to him, I think, on draft day, and then after that my agent handled most of the stuff. So I didn't really talk to him too much. He kind of just let me play and do my thing, which was nice. I appreciated that. So I didn't really have that much communication with him.

Cole: Did you find out the Rangers were going to take you before you heard Ivan Rodriguez call your name? Did they give you a call?

Gallo: Yeah, I knew I was getting picked before. We had a little group there ready to hear it.

Cole: Coming into the draft, did you have any expectations as to where you were going to go?

Gallo: It was a cluster, as I say. There was talk with Oakland at 11th overall that ended up not going my way. After that, I kind of just slid down to the Rangers and fell into that spot right there at 39.

Cole: You initially signed a letter of intent to play your college ball at LSU. How difficult of a decision was it to pass on college and sign with the Rangers?

Gallo: It was pretty difficult––to turn down one of the best baseball programs in the nation. But I learned a lot about Texas along the way. They kind of made an offer that I couldn't really refuse. I wanted to get my pro career started now.

Cole: As you entered the Rangers' organization, how much did you know about it in general?

Gallo: Just that they win. That's about all I knew. I didn't really know too much. But I know that they're a winning organization, so that's all I really knew.

Cole: Did you already know anybody that's playing in the Rangers' system?

Gallo: There's Drew Robinson. He got drafted from Vegas two years ago. I kind of knew him a little bit, but that's about it.

Cole: You've obviously got a strong arm and have done some pitching in the past. Tell me about that. Did you have a preference between pitching and hitting?

Gallo: Yeah, I definitely didn't want to pitch. I just always wanted to be a hitter and play every day. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to play in the field and hit. I just pitched in high school to win ballgames, and that's about it.

Cole: Did you start?

Gallo: I started a couple games, actually.

Cole: Were you doing a lot of closing?

Gallo: Yeah, a lot of closing. In state and playoffs, I'd come in and shut the door down. That's about it.

Cole: Did you have teams talking to you about pitching? Did you get the feel that there were any teams that preferred you as a pitcher?

Gallo: There were a couple teams that talked to me as a pitcher. They'd say, ‘We'd rather have you as a pitcher.' But it was like one or two teams. Not many. Most of them wanted the power bat. But if that eventually doesn't work out, then I can still go on the mound. Not many teams really talked to me as a pitcher.

Cole: Did you make your preference pretty clear from the start?

Gallo: Yeah, we made it clear with them––me and my family when we talked to scouts and people higher up in organizations. We pretty much explained to them that I want to be a hitter. If not, I'd go to LSU.

Cole: You're obviously a tall guy at 6-foot-5. Have you always been a third baseman?

Gallo: Not really. I mean, I started my freshman year at third base. I ended up playing first base at Team USA. I played shortstop during my junior year, and then I figured my future was at third base. I'm big––I can't really play short. I'm too tall. So I moved over there and pretty much just worked at third base the rest of the time.

Cole: What do you feel is your current strength defensively at third base?

Gallo: Probably my arm, but I've been sailing a couple lately. But it's just part of it. I'm getting used to the pace of the game and stuff. But I usually have a pretty strong arm––that's probably where I'm at my best there.

Cole: What part of your game do you want to refine defensively this summer?

Gallo: Mostly my range and stuff. I want to get a good first step and read for the balls. I also want to get in a ready position instead of being lackadaisical––just being ready every single pitch.

Cole: Your manager here, Corey Ragsdale, was an infielder in his playing days. I saw him working with you one-on-one during BP a couple days ago. Have you been able to pick up anything from him so far?

Gallo: Yeah, he talks to me a lot. He's helping me a lot with playing third base because he was a tall infielder, as well. So he knows how tough it is. He's just pretty much having me stay lower to the ground––not come up. He has me staying in a ready position the whole time.

Cole: When the Rangers sign new players, they generally don't make any major swing adjustments during that first summer. Has that been the case so far? Are they mostly just letting you go?

Gallo: Yeah. They're pretty much just letting us go––letting me go. They're seeing how everything goes. I mean, they'll have a little adjustment here and there. They'll say, ‘You're doing this or this.' They'll also help me out when I ask them. But I'm pretty much trying to work more with my hands instead of my body. With the velocity––it's a lot harder than it was in high school––so it's harder to get away with stuff like that. I'm just trying to use my hands a little more, and they're helping me with that.

Cole: Is there anything, outside of that, that you want to accomplish offensively this summer?

Gallo: I don't want to just hit for power and hit home runs. That's nice, because that's what I'm supposed to do. But I want to hit for average and draw walks and have good at-bats. I've been walked a lot lately, so I think I've been doing a pretty good job of that. I want to get more base hits instead of strikeouts.

Cole: You had a recent 0-for-0 game with five walks. Have you ever had a game like that in your life?

Gallo: No. Never. And I'm surprised that it came in pro ball (laughs). But I just wasn't getting my pitch, and I'll take the walks. A walk is just as good as a hit.

Cole: Were you thinking about that when you were up there during your fourth or fifth plate appearance?

Gallo: I'd walk up to the plate and just think, ‘There's no way I can walk again. There's no way.' And then I'd end up walking again, and I'd just be like, ‘Alright, here we go.'

Cole: Were you a guy who walked a lot both in high school and on the showcase circuit?

Gallo: Yeah. I did walk a lot. Mostly in high school because, you know, in high school they're not really going to pitch you too much. I'm pretty––I want to say––a disciplined hitter. I know I usually try to just wait for my pitch and hit it. But I usually do walk a lot.

Cole: I'm sure you want to go up there and drive the ball as often as possible. When you're walking as much as you have so far this summer, is it difficult to stay patient and maintain your plan?

Gallo: Right. It's kind of tough when you're getting walked every at-bat. Other people are getting hits everywhere, and it's like, ‘Man, I just want to get a hit.' And sometimes you get impatient. You start swinging at pitches because you want to get hits. I need to stop doing that and say, ‘If they're going to walk me, just walk me.' And then hopefully I'll score a run.

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