2016 Statistics: 42 G, 78 IP, 1.27 ERA, 12.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
2016 Level/Roster Status: Double-A/Triple-A/Non-40
Way back in spring training, Jason, Tanya, and I tried to scope out some under-the-radar prospects in the Yankees’ system who wouldn’t crack most top 30 lists but had a chance to make an impact. Although the first player I picked, outfielder Isiah Gilliam, was decent in Pulaski, he paled in comparison to my other selection, reliever Giovanny Gallegos:
Signed out of Mexico in November 2010, Gallegos needed to fully recover from a knee injury and find his niche as a reliever before making an impact. At age 23 in 2015, the righty finally did that, pitching to a 1.71 ERA with a 0.794 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 over 35 games, mostly in High-A Tampa. There are certainly several relievers ahead of him on the depth chart, but if his 92-94 mph fastball helps keep his strikeouts up and walks down, then he can remain in the picture.
Victory laps are extremely rare in this business, so kindly excuse me for feeling pretty pleased about this pick (but keep in mind that I also once said Slade Heathcott was the third-best prospect in the organization).
Gallegos was always going to be a long shot since he was advanced for his level. He didn’t even pitch well in the Mexican Pacific Winter League in the off-season, surrendering 11 runs in nine innings. Well in 2016, he surrendered 13 runs in 78 innings. That’s a decent improvement.
The right-hander began the season in Trenton, but he so thoroughly dominated the competition there that by June 8th, he was with Scranton for almost the entire season (save for a two-game cameo in Trenton in late August). Gallegos fanned 53 batters at each level, though he pitched more in Triple-A. Even if one only focuses on his numbers at the toughest level of the minors, Gallegos had a 1.40 ERA, a 10.6 K/9, a 2.0 BB/9, and a 0.84 WHIP. By season’s end, he was Scranton’s closer and finished off their International League championship:
Gallegos does have a number of factors working against him. He doesn’t exactly light up the radar gun with his low-to-mid-90s fastball. He does have a wider repertoire for a reliever by mixing an impressive slider in with a change up and curveball, remnants from his pre-major injury days as a starter. None of these pitches are overwhelming though, so it’s unclear how much they could fool major-league hitters.
The 25-year-old also has Father Time running against him, not that he’s a fossil. However, the Yankees do have a decision about how confident they are in his future whether or not to protect him on the 40-man roster during the Rule 5 draft. He will be eligible this year, and given his Triple-A success, it’s certainly not a stretch to imagine that he could survive in a big-league bullpen all year long.
If the Yankees think he could make an impact on the Scranton Shuttle in 2017, then they might have to protect him. Given that they sent him to Double-A in the midst of a bullpen logjam in late August though, perhaps it’s an indication about how they feel. It’s also possible that he was simply amenable to the situation, but it’s probably an Occam’s razor scenario and the most obvious answer is correct.
At the very least, Gallegos did everything he possibly could to put himself in the Yankees’ future plans, and he deserves top marks for his efforts. The bullpen will need a boost next year, and the right-hander just might be part of the solution. He has played himself into the conversation.