In case you hadn’t noticed, Joey Gallo had a really hard time at the plate to start this season. He went until April 24 without an extra-base hit, and was sporting a sub-20 wRC+ for a concerning amount of time. Something to consider, however, is that these struggles are a part of the Joey Gallo experience. Another part of this experience is that he’s a good baseball player, one that possesses skills not many players do. It looks like that version of Gallo may be on his way.
Admittedly, things did look quite bleak for Gallo at times, as he appeared lost in the batter’s box for an extended period. In what is also a good study in early season conclusions, the slugger has already pulled himself back up to a 93 wRC+. Satisfactory for a player of Gallo’s pedigree? Probably not, but considering where he was coming from, it’s a large improvement, and one that happened pretty quickly.
The Yankees’ outfielder never stopped hitting the ball hard, which is good, but on top of everything else, he was running into some bad luck. As it stands now, Gallo is in the 91st percentile for hard hit percentage and 99th percentile in barrel percentage. These figures are not out of the ordinary for him, but it’s good to see that his primary skill hasn’t disappeared.
This season, many New York hitters have begun to swing a lot more in general, and Gallo is one of them. He has posted the highest swing rate of his career so far in 2022, including a huge jump on the first pitch. There are some possible benefits to this to be considered, but when it’s someone with as much swing-and-miss in their game as Gallo has, there are some real drawbacks as well; too many swings at poor pitches to hit would lead to tough counts, and even tougher pitches to hit. We saw all too much of them during the majority of April.
As mentioned, Gallo went until April 24 without an extra-base hit. But since then, he’s gone 6-for-20 with a double and three home runs, walking twice. Above all else, and most encouraging, is that he looks better at the plate. Of course, a player “looks” better when the ball is flying over the fence, rather than when he is dejectedly walking back to the dugout, but Gallo does appear to have more control in the box recently.
This idea has been particularly apparent on two of those home runs, where Gallo stayed back and mashed the ball over the wall in left-center.
The second home run, off of Yusei Kikuchi, in particular stands out as a really impressive swing. It’s a lefty-lefty matchup, a scenario in which Gallo had gone 1-for-17 with 11 strikeouts. He’s able to muscle a 95-mph fastball on the inner half the other way into the seats. Of course, one swing doesn’t change everything, but I’m confident in saying that was the swing of a guy who’s seeing it well, as they say. It is a bit anecdotal, but those exact types of swings are the ones you tend to see from a guy who’s figuring it out.
That, in a way, is what watching Joey Gallo on a regular basis is all about. Deep struggles bookended by supremely impressive acts on the baseball field. The lows will always be more frustrating for Gallo than they are with other players, and the highs will be booming. That’s just who he is.
It may be a uniquely frustrating way of getting there, but at the end of the day, Joey Gallo is a good and valuable player. By season’s end, I would guess he will be someone the Yankees will have been glad to have in their lineup. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if these past few days, and those impressive swings, served as a mental turning point for Gallo and fans alike.