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Why New York Yankees’ Joey Gallo is MLB’s most-unique player

Robbie Stratakos
MLB: Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees made a blockbuster trade for Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo before the MLB trade deadline. Across his seven-year MLB career split between the two aforementioned teams, Gallo has been renowned for his raw power from the left side.

With that said, Gallo has attracted attention over the last few seasons for a multitude of reasons with his power being just one of them. He has become a fascinating case study that few, if any, across the sport can replicate in both production and impact.

Here’s why Joey Gallo is MLB’s most-unique player.

Joey Gallo is a boom-or-bust hitter who walks

new york yankees' joey gallo
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

To put it simply, Gallo raises hell on fastballs. He’s one of the most-intimidating hitters in the sport, as he slugs and unleashes on pitchers at a highly-productive rate.

Regarding Gallo’s power, the Yankees’ outfielder entered Tuesday in the top-three percent of MLB in barrel percentage (18.1%), top-five percent in maximum exit velocity (115.1 mph) and top-eight percent in average exit velocity (92.3 mph) per Statcast. He’s also two seasons removed from posting a .986 OPS and 22 home runs across just 70 games. This doesn’t even take into account back-to-back 40-plus home run seasons in 2017 and 2018.

Now let’s assess the latter half of Gallo’s combined accumulations with the Yankees and Rangers. Gallo currently averages roughly two strikeouts for every hit, yet he leads the league in walks. Huh? Yes, despite striking out at one of the highest rates in the sport, Gallo does an exceptional job of getting on base via working the count.

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The modern-day game is one that features a plethora of boom-or-bust hitters (hitters who tend to be power threats and strike out often). In thought, Gallo falls under that category because he’s a power hitter who frequently strikes out. Such a player tends to seldom walk. But again, Gallo does the opposite. He whiffs often, but basically offsets that with his on-base percentage which derives from drawing walks.

Joey Gallo is both a mammoth human and an elite outfielder

Gallo is 6-foot-5. While it’s not rare to see a player of that stature play the outfield, a player of that height typically plays one of the corner infield positions, takes the hill or is a so-so defensive outfielder. Part of the reasoning for this is a player who stands at 6-foot-5 may be a bit slower than someone who’s hovering around six feet.

This comes into play in regards to whether that player can sprint under a fly ball and their speed when it concerns picking up ground balls that reach the grass. So, the Rangers and Yankees just “hide” Gallo in the outfield, right? Nope, he’s an elite fielder.

Gallo has superb flyball judgement and possesses a cannon for an arm, as he snipes baserunners with ease from the outfield grass.

Across his 87 games in right field for the Rangers this season, Gallo posted 14 DRS. Furthermore, he has a combined 27 DRS at the position over the last two seasons, which blows every right fielder out of the water. Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers is second at 14 DRS. The gap is that drastic between Gallo and the field.

Meanwhile, Gallo is adept at playing all three outfield positions and has experience starting at both corner infield positions. He’s a steady fielder who brings defensive versatility to the table.

Joey Gallo is MLB’s most-unique player

new york yankees' joey gallo
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Gallo’s overall skill set draws varying takes, and understandably so. He’s the stereotypical 2021 power hitter who strikes out too much. On the other hand, he essentially does everything else well, including running the bases.

If the batting average and strikeouts were respectable or at least middle of the pack, Joey Gallo would be arguably one of the five best position players in baseball. He has power, speed, a good eye, a plausible arm and wide range in the grass. What team doesn’t want that combination?

In the meantime, though, it’s possible that Gallo won’t be as effective on the Yankees as he could be on a more balanced offensive attack. That’s because they have a bevy of primary power threats playing every day, meaning Gallo’s power is mere parity for manager Aaron Boone’s offense.

Where the outfielder is the most impactful for New York is in his defense, versatility and eye for identifying balls and strikes out of a pitcher’s hand; that’s why they made the bold move for him.

You can find MLB players with power and a reliable glove. One can also find towering individuals with speed and versatility. It’s rare to find a player who has a tall frame that comes with power, a good eye, All-Star-caliber defense and speed. Joey Gallo is in a distinct class of his own.