(Relatively unknown at the start of the 2016 season, Giovanny Gallegos became one of the best relievers in the organization by the end of it and earned a 40-man roster spot in November. Butch Comegys / Times-Tribune Photographer)
One down. Fourteen to go.
Today, we continue to count down the Top 15 prospects who could help the Yankees this season. Let’s look at No. 14, Giovanny Gallegos.
Position: Relief pitcher
Weight: 210 pounds
40-man roster: Yes
Gallegos didn’t have much hype when he signed with the Yankees in 2011 and it didn’t help that knee and Tommy John surgeries delayed his professional debut until 2012. But the 25-year-old made the Yankees well aware of how good he can be with an excellent 2016 season, one that began at Double-A Trenton.
In 16 outings from April 8-June 5, which included his Triple-A debut May 18, Gallegos went 2-1 with a 1.19 ERA, 45 strikeouts and two saves and allowed just one homer, eight walks and a .183 batting average against in 30 1/3 innings primarily as a middle reliever.
Gallegos came back up to the RailRiders on June 8 and found much of the same success in a similar role. But he really turned it on from mid-August through the RailRiders’ run to the Triple-A National Championship. In his final seven regular-season appearances — two of which came at Trenton — Gallegos was basically untouchable. He went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 16 innings. He allowed opponents to hit just .060 and only gave up three hits and two walks. Six of those outings saw him record at least four strikeouts, including three five-strikeout performances. That dominant stretch helped Gallegos finish the year with 106 strikeouts, which was 36 more than the combined hits (48), walks (17) and homers (five) he allowed.
He continued that impressive stretch in the postseason, beginning in Game 3 of the Governors’ Cup semifinals when he struck out five over three no-hit innings as the RailRiders swept in-state rival Lehigh Valley. Then in Game 2 of the championship series against Gwinnett, Galllegos threw 1 2/3 perfect innings with two strikeouts and picked up the win. Two days later, he saved the Governors’ Cup-clinching Game 4 with a perfect ninth inning and two strikeouts before throwing another perfect ninth inning in the national title game.
In November, Gallegos was rewarded with a 40-man roster spot.
While he has four pitches in his arsenal, Gallegos relies on his fastball and curveball during the majority of his outings. His fastball has some life and generally sits in the 92-94 mph range, though I’ve seen it touch 95 a few times. The curveball usually sits around the mid-70s range and is a decent compliment to a fastball that is clearly his go-to. And when he needs them, Gallegos also can mix in a slider and changeup that usually clock in the high-70s and low-80s, respectively.
What really sticks out about Gallegos, though, is that he seems to have outstanding command. He’s not going to walk a lot of batters. He has a 1.70 walks-per-nine innings ratio to go along with 9.11 strikeouts per nine innings. And at Trenton last year, those numbers were 1.91 and 14.45, respectively, the latter of which is simply unheard of.
There isn’t much out there on Gallegos but here’s him inducing a game-ended fly out that gave Scranton/Wilkes-Barre its second Governors’ Cup championship last Sept. 16 at Gwinnett. Worth noting that Gallegos entered the game in the bottom of the ninth and struck out the first two batters before the fly out.
Fast forward to about 1:20 where you’ll see Gallegos use his breaking ball to record the final out in the Triple-A National Championship Game.
What Lies Ahead in 2017
Gallegos’ bid for an Opening Day bullpen spot ended Wednesday when the Yankees optioned him to the RailRiders, which really wasn’t that much of a surprise. Before that, Gallegos represented Mexico in the World Baseball Classic and had just returned to the Yankees early last week. However, the Yankees brought him to their game against Houston at West Palm Beach on Sunday and he actually picked up the win after he threw a scoreless eighth inning before the Yankees rallied with three runs in the ninth. He’s been OK in his five spring outings. On the plus side, he struck out seven and walked just one in six innings. But both of the runs he allowed came on home runs.
Was Gallegos a serious contender to break camp with the Yankees? I didn’t think so. But can he provide meaningful innings over the course of a 162-game season? Definitely.
It’s no secret that the Yankees have utilized their Triple-A bullpen over the past few seasons. There are going to be several times this season where the Yankees’ bullpen will be gassed and they’ll need somebody to eat up innings. Gallegos fits that mold perfectly.
However, no pitcher wants to be the guy that’s just thrown into action to get teams through games. A big key for Gallegos is to prove early on that 2016 wasn’t a fluke and he should have plenty of chances to do so. Because of the harsh April weather teams in the north face, starters aren’t likely to go as long as they would in June, July or August, meaning middle relievers like Gallegos are key.
The back end of the Yankees’ bullpen is deep with the likes of Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren (maybe), setup man Dellin Betances and closer Aroldis Chapman. But question marks still remain and a guy like Gallegos will be given a chance even if it’s not right away.