Baseball is back and at Baseball America, that means it's time again to track the progress of prospects. We'll update you each day on how some of the game's most prominent prospects fared at spring training.
Joey Gallo showed off his power--an 80 on the 20-80 scout scale--for the second time in three days on Sunday, blasting a ball into the parking lot in right field against Angels righthander Matt Shoemaker.
The Rangers’ No. 1 prospect, Gallo projects as an average hitter, which combined with his ability to draw walks--he walked 14 percent of the time in 2015--would make him an above-average on-base threat.
Gallo--who struck out 57 times in 108 major league at-bats in 2015--said he has more confidence in his second big league spring training.
“Spring training last year, I felt close to this, but this year I feel strong and confident and like I belong here more than last year,” he told reporters. “(Last year) was my first camp, and I was just trying to figure things out and get comfortable. Now, I know I can play and compete against these guys.”
While the Rangers want the strikeout-prone Gallo to be more patient, they don’t want him to lose his aggressiveness, which has led to 127 minor league homers in three pro seasons.
Gallo also possesses surprising athleticism, leading the Rangers to try him in left field, since they seem likely to re-sign third baseman Adrian Beltre. The signing of Ian Desmond as a left fielder likely means Gallo begins the season back at Triple-A. Gallo struck out 90 times in 200 at-bats and hit .195 at Round Rock a year ago, but the Rangers believe Gallo improves when he repeats a level.
Should Desmond struggle, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Gallo inserted into the lineup, especially given the short-term commitment to Desmond.
Nine newsmakers from Sunday's action.
- Corey Seager, ss, Dodgers: The top prospect in the game, Seager has a sprained left knee but the Dodgers are hopeful he’ll be ready for Opening Day. “As I understand it, he will lay low for a week, keep his arm in shape, and the second week progress a little,” manager Dave Roberts told reporters. “As far as seeing baseball activity, it will be a couple of weeks, and at that time we’ll reassess. There will still be time for him to get a slew of at-bats.”
- Marco Gonzales, lhp, Cardinals: The 2013 first-rounder from Gonzaga got to the majors the next year and despite some command issues, managed to impress, especially in the postseason. Gonzales was poised to be a big league contributor in 2015, only to see the season lost to shoulder weakness. He didn’t need surgery, but fell behind fellow lefty Tim Cooney and righthanders Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver in the team’s rankings. This spring, Gonzales is healthy and Cooney has been slowed by shoulder weakness. The two lefthanders are similar in stuff, with fastballs at 88-91 mph and both needing command and precision to succeed. On Sunday, Gonzales looked dominant, striking out six in three innings and throwing 37 of his 54 pitches for strikes. “I’ve felt that good the whole spring,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was really happy with it.”
- Peter O’Brien, 1b, Diamondbacks: O’Brien, the defensively challenged slugger, blasted two homers Sunday off White Sox lefthander John Danks. Arizona is enthralled with O’Brien’s light-tower power, but finding him a place to play has been a challenge. For now, manager Chip Hale says the plan to have O’Brien catch has been scrapped in favor of him learning to play the outfield. But on Sunday, O’Brien played first base.
- Elias Diaz, dh, Pirates: The winner of the Captain’s Catcher Award as the best defensive backstop in the minors, Diaz has worked to become a better offensive player as he tries to wedge his way into the Pirates’ plans. On Sunday, Diaz clubbed his first homer this spring, albeit at DH. With Chris Stewart signed through 2017 as the backup, perhaps Diaz will be the Pirates’ starter next year when Francisco Cervelli departs via free agency.
- Steven Moya lf, Tigers: Moya’s double-plus power is being showcased as he belted his fourth homer, tied for the most this spring, off tough Pirates lefty Tony Watson. Power’s not the problem for Moya; it’s his ability--or inability--to make consistent contact. Also, with the signing of Justin Upton and the Tigers desire to carry Mike Aviles as a utility man, Moya has virtually no chance to make team out of spring training. Still, he’s giving new general manager Al Avila something to think about.
- Jacob Faria, rhp, Rays: Faria has carried over his tremendous 2015 season (17-4, 1.92) to an eye-opening spring. He’s allowed just one hit--a homer by John Mayberry Jr.--over 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. Faria’s not likely to make the Rays out of spring training only because they believe so highly in his potential as a starter that they don’t want to use him in relief. Faria mixes a fastball at 90-92 with good late life and deception from a high three-quarters arm slot with a changeup that has become an out pitch. In a pennant race, the Rays won’t rule out using Faria in relief as they did with David Price in 2008.
- Hunter Harvey, rhp, Orioles: Like fellow oft-injured Orioles righthander Dylan Bundy, Harvey is just trying to get through spring healthy. So far, he’s done that but with subpar results. While Bundy gave up an unearned run in his inning Sunday, Harvey got only one out and allowed five runs on three hits and two walks. The Orioles, however, can afford to be patient with Harvey, who has pitched just 113 innings in three pro seasons, because, unlike Bundy, he has minor league options remaining.
- Aaron Judge, rf, Yankees: The Yankees’ No. 3 prospect and the heir apparent to Carlos Beltran in right field, Judge made the majority of his impressions in batting practice, showing off his monster power potential. But with the exception of one opposite field homer, Judge hit .077 and struck out seven times in 13 at-bats and was reassigned to minor league camp Sunday. With a 6-foot-7 frame, Judge will need to better learn to control the strike zone or pitchers will exploit him, especially down and away.
- Ian Gardeck, rhp, Giants: Gardeck, one of the many Giants power righthanded relievers and their No. 17 prospect, needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2016 season. Gardeck is coming off a strong 2015 in which he tamped down the command issues and still struck out 10.8 batters per nine innings.