Zac Gallen Helps Marlins Restock System
Righthander Zac Gallen couldn’t sit still on Feb. 4.
The 22-year-old native of Gibbsboro, N.J., had been waiting for this moment his whole life, and the nerves were getting to him.
The event was the 2018 Super Bowl, and Gallen—born and raised just 20 minutes east of Philadelphia—was living and dying with the Eagles and their attempt to knock off the favored New England Patriots.
"I paced around the entire game,” the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Gallen said. "It was nuts."
Fortunately for Gallen, his Eagles won 41-33 to earn their first Super Bowl victory.
Gallen’s only regret was that he missed the next day’s parade because he had to make the trip down to Jupiter, Fla., to start spring training.
Even so, the Eagles’ breakthrough could be a positive omen for Gallen, one of four prospects the Marlins acquired on Dec. 14, when they traded outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals.
The Marlins, who were in need of a major boost to their farm system, like what they’ve seen of Gallen, who shot through the Cardinals’ system in 2017.
The 2016 third-rounder out of North Carolina made it all the way to Triple-A Memphis for four starts in his first full year as a pro. Overall he went 10-8, 2.93 with 121 strikeouts and 35 walks in 147.2 innings.
"He’s a technician,” said Sam Tropiano, who coached Gallen at Bishop Eustace Prep in New Jersey. "He’s always had picture-perfect mechanics. He’s a strike-throwing machine, and the ball comes out of his hand nice and easy.”
Gallen won’t break anyone’s radar gun, but he said his velocity has increased from 89-93 mph to 92-94, and he mixes in a curveball, cutter and changeup.
The Marlins have urged him this spring to use the upper part of the zone more to move hitters off the plate. Gallen has also focused on his curve, throwing it early in counts for strikes and also finishing batters off with that pitch.
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Gallen has had a few sports heroes in his life.
He was a shortstop until he got to high school, and one of the players he emulated was Derek Jeter.
He was a Cardinals fan, wearing the St. Louis jersey relentlessly as a kid. And he was big Michael Jordan admirer in basketball.
Everything has since come full circle. Gallen attended UNC at least in part because it was Jordan’s school. After his junior year, he was drafted in the third round by the Cardinals—a dream come true. And after getting traded to the Marlins, he sat in on a team meeting with Jeter, now the Marlins' CEO.
"It’s surreal,” Gallen said of being on a team run by Jeter. "I gravitated toward him as a kid. I wore his No. 2 a lot as a kid.”
• Righthander Sandy Alcantara, whose fastball tops 100 mph, has shown improved command of his heater this spring.