Joey Gallo is a flawed hitter. He doesn’t have the highest contact rates and he suffers a lot against breaking pitches and changeups. As a result, his strikeout rate will always flirt with the high 30s and low 40s. But the Yankees knew all this when they traded for him last year.
Gallo, as it turns out, is also a hard worker. He cares, and he tries to get better. He is committed to succeeding in the Bronx, even if going to the stadium and hearing some of the fans comments isn’t always easy. And since late May, he has been much, much improved.
We are talking about a couple of weeks’ worth of games, so the sample size isn’t enough to declare that he is back. However, since May 27th, the lefty-hitting slugger is slashing .278/.333/.556 with a double, three homers and a 156 wRC+ — that line is far better than the .193/.291/.372 line he has for the season as a whole. In 2022, Gallo has a 12.1 percent walk rate, which is lower than the 18 percent he had in 2021 and the 14.8 percent he has for his career. However, since our established date (May 27th), he is walking at a 7.7 percent rate.
That’s a noticeable change. It seems he is being much more aggressive in hunting for the right pitch to hit. Walks are good, yes, but hitters should be careful not to mistake them with passivity when they go to the plate. Just because a hitter goes up there and refuses to swing doesn’t mean he has good plate discipline. Gallo and the Yankees may have determined that he was letting too many hittable pitches pass by.
Gallo’s swing percentage, according to FanGraphs, is 50.5 percent for the season (before Friday’s game). Since May 27th, however, it has gone up four percentage points, to 54.5 percent — that’s a notable adaptation.
Not everything has gone smoothly since May 27th, though. Gallo is striking out at a 41 percent rate, which is, quite frankly, too high even for him. However, the extra aggressiveness seems to be working fine for him because he is hitting the ball hard frequently, with a 50 percent hard-hit rate and a 20 percent barrel percentage. He is making really solid contact: his BABIP during that stretch, .412, is unsustainable, but in all honesty, no one is expecting Gallo to hit over .270.
As long as he is hitting the ball hard frequently and his strikeout rate doesn’t go over 40 percent, Gallo should be fine. Perhaps he is not capable of hitting .253 or have a 144 wRC+ like he did in 2019 anymore, but the Yankees should be happy if he can return to the level he had last year when they traded for him: he was slashing .223/.379/.490 with a 139 wRC+ for the Rangers when he switched teams.
Perhaps his OBP will decrease now that he is a bit more aggressive, but his slugging percentage could be higher. Again, we will have to see if he can maintain a similar level for a sustained period of time, but he does look a lot better than his early-season version. This home run, for example, tied a difficult game that the Yankees ended up winning, in large part thanks to him:
So yes, he is indeed a flawed player. But he can be very dangerous as a hitter, and perhaps if the Yankees have some extra patience, they can reap the benefits of his obvious power.