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Prospect Smackdown: Joey Gallo vs. Miguel Sano

Do you like high strikeout rates, questionable hit tools and “hold on to your butts”-level power? If so, please enjoy the following prospect smackdown.

Prospect Smackdown No. 11: Joey Gallo vs. Miguel Sano

The Case for Gallo

A year ago at this time, it was almost unfathomable that Gallo could legitimately rank ahead of Sano on any list. While Gallo managed to hit 38 homers in Single-A in 2013, he struck out in 37 percent of his at-bats and posted an overall line of just .245/.334/.610. There was a real concern that Gallo wouldn’t make enough contact as he moved up the system to let his 80-grade power play.

But in 246 plate appearances at High-A this year, Gallo impressed greatly by increasing his walk rate and decreasing his strikeout rate while still hitting for tremendous power. He hit .323/.463/.735 in 246 PA, good for an incredible wRC+ of 218. That led the 20-year-old Gallo to a midseason promotion to Frisco, where he’s still hitting for impressive power but where some of his strikeout concerns have once again reared their ugly head.

Still, Gallo’s produced wonderfully this year and bridged the gap between Single-A and Double-A in just a few months. We’re looking at a potential late 2015/early 2016 ETA for Gallo now, and every time he proves he can hit for power at a higher level, he moves further up dynasty league rankings.

The Case Against Gallo

In the section above, I claimed that some concern over Gallo’s strikeout rate was rearing its ugly head in Double-A. That may be an understatement: Gallo is striking out in a whopping 42 percent of his plate appearances in Frisco, and his walk rate is down to 11.8 percent. Gallo is just 20 years old and we’re only talking about a sample of 169 PA here, but those numbers aren’t doing Gallo lovers any favors.

Also, while Gallo has occasionally hit for decent averages in the minors, this isn’t a player with a plus hit tool. His current .272 average is bolstered by a .417 BABIP, and while he hit .323 in High-A he hit just .245 in Single-A a year ago. Gallo has legitimate 40-homer power, and that makes him an extremely rare fantasy commodity. But he’s not an overall offensive threat, and he’s going to really have to carry you in HR, RBI and R to make up for what could be a poor AVG. His value must be docked significantly in points leagues, too, because he’s going to tally all the strikeouts ever.

The Case for Sano

In some ways, Sano was Gallo before being Gallo was cool. We don’t hear as much about his power because of his injury, but Sano shares Gallo’s plus-plus power potential. He hit 35 homers between High-A and Double-A last year, and like Gallo, he was a 20-year-old when he accomplished that feat. Sano has also faced his share of strikeout troubles, but he’s never been above 30 percent, so they’ve generally been more manageable than what we’ve seen from the Texas slugger.

While Sano doesn’t profile to be a high average hitter, there’s probably more cause for optimism in terms of AVG than we see with Gallo. Scouts have long been split over whether Sano is more of a .265 hitter or a .250 hitter, but there are plenty who believe he’s the former. And while he’ll need some recovery time next season, he’s probably looking at an early/mid-2016 ETA, too. Gallo may be shiny and new, but in some ways he’s a less refined version of Sano.

The Case Against Sano

That whole Tommy John surgery thing kind of sucks. Not only did it cause Sano to miss an entire year, but it does raise some questions about his ability to stay at third base long-term, as third base, as you know, is a position that requires long, strenuous throws. I don’t think it’s a given that Sano moves to first base now, but there’s more of a chance of that happening than there was pre-injury. Also, while missing a season when you’re 21 isn’t the end-all, be-all, it’s obviously bad for development, and it may take Sano a full season just to get back to where he was at the end of 2012.

Aside from the injury, a lot of the negatives I listed for Gallo rings true for Sano, too. He might hurt you in average, he’s going to be a killer in points leagues and his power might not play up to elite against major league pitching. Add in an unfavorable home ballpark, and it’s not crazy to prefer Gallo anymore.

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The Author

Ben Carsley

Ben Carsley


  1. […] Prospect News: debates which prospect is the better long-term investment, Joey Gallo or Miguel […]

  2. rk1101
    July 28, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Are you more confident than before that Sano should be able to make a full recovery, and not suffer a setback from his TJ surgery after seeing what Rymer Liriano has done this year? He had the same surgery last year, and is not showing any signs of rust. His power has kept growing despite the lost time, so is TJ something that is easy for a hitter to come back from and pick up where they left off?

    • James
      July 31, 2014 at 12:56 am

      Position players come back much faster than pitchers. TJ is far more rare and really not as big a deal…. But I can only think of one guy who had multiple TJ surgeries and still played, and it was an OF

  3. July 29, 2014 at 8:11 am

    I find it strange that so many are predicting a move off 3rd base as being more likely, and citing his TJ surgery. But in a landscape where so many starters come back from TJ and succeed having to throw 100+ strenuous pitches each start, why would a 3b making maybe 5+ throws a game automatically be in danger of having to move due to his elbow?

    • RotoLando
      July 29, 2014 at 9:55 am

      It’s probably just risk management. Will his arm stand up to a full season’s worth of throws to first base? Probably, but why risk it? Is he that great at 3B defense that the Twins’ manager has to play him there? I don’t know, but if I had to pick between average defense with health risk and moving him to 1B to keep his bat in the lineup more often, I’m moving him to 1B.

      Like Mauer, except I don’t know how they work Sano into that.

    • August 2, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      I don’t see it being an issue either. Also lets not forget that this guy had arguably the strongest arm of any 3B in the minors before the surgery, so if he comes back to 90% of that arm strength he’ll be alright. It’s not like the 5 throws, at best, a game are all going to be max effort like what a pitcher has to go through.

  4. Brian
    July 29, 2014 at 11:12 am

    I’m not concerned about a potential move off 1st base. Most fantasy leagues only require 5-10 starts at a position to be eligible for the year. Even is Sano does become a pretty regular 1st basemen, I would not be surprised to see him play enough games at 3rd for him to be eligible at the position for maybe 5 years, potentially more. That is good enough for me, and 5 years from now I’m sure Gallo will be facing the same position eligibility problems.

  5. Ben
    July 29, 2014 at 11:29 am

    I choose to simply love them both equally, with all my heart. Here’s to you, 80 power youngsters. You give us all the hope.

  6. […] – debates which prospect is the better long-term investment, Joey Gallo or Miguel […]

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