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Joey Gallo’s risk is worth the potential reward for the White Sox

by Nik Gaur

Joey Gallo might be the most polarizing player in baseball. The twenty-nine year-old outfielder has a career .199 batting average, but .794 OPS and 110 wRC+. He has a career 37.3% strikeout rate, but 14.8% walk rate and 38 home runs per 162 games. The mere mention of Gallo’s name can serve as a litmus test for what kind of baseball fan you are talking to, in terms of affinity for traditional or advanced methods of evaluating player performance.

Joey Gallo: Unconventional, Yet Valuable

If you’re familiar with me or my articles, then you know I lean toward the latter and have been a fan of Gallo for years. Not only have I felt that he is an intriguing fit for recent White Sox rosters, but I also tend to admire players that provide value through untraditional styles. For example, a player with Gallo’s offensive profile might typically be an aging, unathletic designated hitter, rather than a Gold Glove outfielder.

Indeed, Gallo can play all three outfield positions, which would be beneficial to the White Sox given Luis Robert‘s injury history and Oscar Colas‘ lack of MLB experience. But beyond his defense, Gallo also provides value on offense in unique ways. For example, in his 2,811 career plate appearances, Joey Gallo has grounded into only 12 double plays. While the below tweet is dated, it is certainly a positive that the White Sox would have two of the best players at avoiding double plays in baseball history on their roster (striking out is not always a bad thing, given the alternatives!).

To put this into further context, the White Sox as a team had three players in 2022 that grounded into more double plays than Gallo has in his entire career. Given that the team ranked seventh in MLB with 127 double plays, Gallo’s addition would help balance out the lineup in terms of batted ball tendencies. For example, Gallo’s ground ball rate in 2022 was only 28% (and it just 29.3% for his career). In 2022, the White Sox had the fifth-highest ground ball rate in MLB at 45.4%, so adding a fly ball hitter (51% career fly ball rate) in Gallo would again add balance to the lineup.

Finally, there are the more obvious positives mentioned earlier: Gallo’s plate discipline and power. Since the 2022 White Sox rarely walked or hit home runs, adding a player whose strengths on offense are walks and home runs makes sense on paper. Sure, Gallo — even during good years — strikes out at very high rates, which leads to low batting averages. But in my opinion, as long as a player is providing value, I do not care how that value is achieved.

In other words, Joey Gallo can strike out nearly 40% of the time as long as it means he is also walking at a double-digit rate, hitting at least 30 home runs, and having an overall above-average offensive season (e.g., a wRC+ or OPS+ above 100, preferably above 120, which Gallo has eclipsed several times in the past). I understand that many fans would rather a hitter achieve a 120 wRC+ by hitting .300 and maintaining a strikeout rate around or below 15%, but the White Sox already have several hitters who fit that mold. In Gallo, they would be adding power and patience that the current roster lacks.

Gallo may get compared to potential teammates in Yoan Moncada or Yasmani Grandal in an effort to prove that the current roster does not, in fact, lack hitters with Gallo’s profile. However, I disagree with this premise. Moncada is not a power hitter, and his only similarity to Gallo is that they both strike out at high rates. Grandal is more akin to Gallo’s style, but he is also not a high strikeout hitter like he was when he was with the Dodgers — Grandal’s 21% strikeout rate in 2022 was lower than the league average of 22.4%, and pales in comparison to Gallo’s 39.8% clip.

The Elephant in the Room

It took me long enough, so I’ll say it: Joey Gallo was bad in 2022. If he had played up to career norms, he probably would not be a feasible option for the White Sox due to what would have been a higher asking price. Actually, one comparison between Gallo and the Moncada/Grandal duo that makes sense is their performance changes between 2021 and 2022: all three players were worth about 4 fWAR in 2021, but cratered to below 1 fWAR in 2022.

In 2022, Gallo hit the ball hard and took plenty of walks, but his (still high) walk rate decreased nonetheless alongside an increase in his strikeout rate and decrease in his (still high) average exit velocity. Cumulatively, this was the perfect mix for a career-worst season, as Gallo’s wRC+ fell from to 85 from 2021’s 122. It was the worst offensive output of Gallo’s career, and the only season that comes close is the pandemic-shortened 2020.

To make matters worse, even Gallo’s usually solid defense was only about average in 2022. The most commonly accepted advanced metrics disagree on specifics — defensive runs saved (DRS) had him at +4 runs, ultimate zone rating (UZR) had him at -1 run, and outs above average (OAA) had Gallo at -3 outs. Since each metric agrees that Gallo’s defensive performance was about average, it is safe to conclude that he was likely a worse defender in 2022 than he has been throughout his career.*

*OAA has never loved Gallo’s defense, as he has been at 0 outs (exactly average) for his career, while DRS (+43 runs) and UZR (+19 runs) have been much more positive overall. Even if the outlier in OAA is more accurate, the White Sox would greatly benefit from even average defense from corner outfielders, considering how abysmal the positions were defensively in 2022.

Gallo himself had an interesting quote on his defense from an interview in July:

Gallo: I think people don’t realize with the naked eye sometimes that balls I get to, that play usually isn’t getting made most of the time (by other outfielders). The way I play outfield, I always think about having the best jump possible, getting to the ball as quick as I can and getting it in as quick as I can. That’s what’s helping me win Gold Gloves, not letting guys take extra bases, getting to balls I should get to and maybe a little extra. I think people just judge everybody on how they’re hitting, but they don’t really view what else players can do on the field or their versatility. Me being able to play multiple positions helps out a lot… Winning baseball is not always about how many hits you get that day. Defense can be an underappreciated part of the game.

Source: Randy Miller, nj.com

While Statcast’s OAA is the only of the three discussed metrics that has not loved Gallo’s defense, it does agree that his jumps and arm strength have both been elite throughout his career.

In another interview with nj.com’s Randy Miller, this one from August, Gallo reflected on his unsuccessful stint with the Yankees. He was quite vulnerable in admitting that he lost confidence in 2022, stating:

Gallo: Coming here, I knew it was going to be really tough. It took a while for people to understand the player I am in Texas. Early on, I was the No. 1 prospect, but I struck out a lot. I was a strange player. But Rangers fans started to understand, ‘OK, this guy strikes out, but he hits homers, he plays good defense, he’s a good person.’ Rangers fans came to understand that. Here in New York, if you don’t get enough hits, it doesn’t matter what else you’re doing. They’re going to tear you apart. I’ve been a Three True Outcomes player my whole life. It’s not like I hit .300 my whole life. I’ve been a .200 hitter my whole life and I hit .160 here. So I knew New York was going to be a tough time and a tough place to play, especially the player that I am.

Source: Randy Miller, nj.com

While Gallo was better after being traded to the Dodgers, the differences in performance were fairly insignificant and could be attributed to the small sample sizes (Gallo was used as more of a part-time player in Los Angeles). Arguments for a potential rebound in production for 2023, then, are based on a variety of factors.

For example, if the mental struggles of underperforming for the Yankees began to stockpile, perhaps Gallo could bounce back with a clean slate. Moreover, even beyond mental factors, Gallo would not be the first otherwise good player to have an uncharacteristically bad year in his prime. For many, these end up just serving as blips on the back of their baseball cards. For others, they may be indicative of a larger trend.

Gallo, however, also has more help incoming due to MLB’s announcement that defensive shifts will be banned beginning in 2023. As I wrote about the other day, even though Gallo is not a ground ball hitter, he was still victimized by defensive shifts in 2022 and could see a marginal increase in batting average as a result of the new rule.

A Change in Organizational Philosophy?

Last year, White Sox hitters struck out in just 20.7% of their plate appearances, which was the seventh-best rate in baseball. They also led MLB in singles with 1,005 — the highest amount of singles by any MLB team since 2016. Yet, for whatever reason, the most common retort to the idea of signing Joey Gallo is that the White Sox “have enough high strikeout guys,” and “what they need is someone who puts the ball in play like Andrew Benintendi or Michael Brantley.”

While Benintendi or Brantley are still potential upgrades for the White Sox, the idea that the team strikes out often is not rooted in fact. What the offense needs is power, regardless of whether the team’s power hitters strike out often or not. The best bet to provide power on the market just might be a motivated Joey Gallo on a short-term “prove it” deal. Gallo is far from a perfect player, but despite the widespread scrutiny, he has had a productive MLB career thus far and may be due for positive regression, much like several core White Sox players.

Recently, the White Sox have elected to spend free agent dollars on players that may be classified as “high floor, low ceiling,” such as Josh Harrison (2022) or Adam Eaton (2021). The approach has not worked for two reasons: first, the 2022 White Sox needed more power (even entering the season), so while Harrison was fine, he did not really move the needle. Additionally, the “high floor” approach is inherently risky when the players in question are either older or are coming off particularly bad seasons, which was the case with Eaton.

While Gallo is coming off a bad season himself, he is not a “high floor” player, but rather a “high ceiling” player with a lower floor. Since the White Sox are not competing for outfielders in the Aaron Judge or Brandon Nimmo tiers, their options begin with “safer” players such as the aforementioned Benintendi, Brantley, or somebody like David Peralta (but again, their high floors may be illusory, particularly for those last two).

Alternatively, the White Sox could acquire a riskier (for different reasons) but higher-ceiling option such as Michael Conforto or Joey Gallo. Since the team’s most realistic path toward contention in 2023 primarily involves internal improvements, or at least returns to prior levels of production, adding a potential high-ceiling outfielder would be both a refreshing change of pace and perhaps the smartest option to raise the ceiling on the team’s best case scenarios. If that is the route the White Sox choose, Joey Gallo would be a terrific option.

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Featured Photo: © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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Grab Some Bench

OMG, stop it with the Joey Gallo nonsense. Gallo didn’t have just one bad year, he’s had a horrible career. His average for 8 years in major league baseball is .199 and his OBP is .325. With 8 years, over 2800 plate appearances and 752 games played, we know who Joey Gallo is and he isn’t going to help. We don’t need another border Mendoza line player to add to Moncada and Grandal. Please, for the love of God stop with the Joey Gallo love. He’s awful.

Dan Shea

I think he meant Joey Callo..Joey Gallo is dead.


Cousin Vinny… NICE.

Jim Christopher

Joey Gallo – no. They got rid of Adam Engel who was faster, stole more bases, as good or better defender and except for a couple of outlier years of Gallo’s power, hit for a better average, despite an irregular appearance in the lineup.

Scott McKissick

Sox continue to be bottom feeders! Acquiring a player that was not talented enough to start for the Dodgers and has had consecutive bad seasons doesn’t seem like they are trying to win. You must pay to have great players. To say “we” the Sox don’t have money is ridiculous! Their payroll doesn’t approach those of other major market teams. Either spend the money to be competitive or get out of the business! Go get Rodon and resign Andrus. Those moves would signal a will to win. If you want the value of the franchise to increase, you must WIN!

Jim Christopher

Wouldn’t mind Andrus back at 2nd and would love Rodin back!

Chip Ramsey

There is no will to do anything but satisfy investors…

Chip Ramsey

Boras client. 1 year deal for lots of money and if he has a bounce back year, he won’t be back. He may sign with the Sox because no one wants him, but, again, this is Scott Boras.

Da Doherty

Perhaps it is time to admit that the Hahn era is over? While great at looking after the bottom line, and continuing to throw the media/fans a less tasteful line. Hahn has either been unable to or had the organization to recognize talent, other than 1b and DH. Solution ….James Click, GM late of Astros (WS) and Tampa Bay organization . If there are constant contenders….it is those organizations. Sign Click NOW.

joseph pecoraro

Just what the White Sox need. Another .200 hitter, as if we don’t have enough. Quit being so god damn cheap and trying to prove you’re smarter than everyone else. Go out and get a bona fide 2nd baseman and corner outfielder. Not another DH.


I would love to shake it up personally. My thought here is going to get booed off, but listen to it. I would trade Anderson, Moncada and Giolito to the red sox for Rafael Devers and Cedanne Rafaela, who is a SS/OF with comparisons to Mookie Betts. Then I would go sign Jose Iglesias to play SS, and bring in Drury or Adam Frazier or jurikson profar to play 2nd base. You have replaced Moncada with a stud, jose iglesias has hit between .260-.295 last three years and has a great glove, and the second base spot has a good hitter no matter t be Drury or Frazier. Oscar Colas is your rightfielder find a decent left fielder, someone like mccutchen or brantley or benintendi. Then get a pitcher like Chad Kuhl, or Mike Minor or even Cueto again for the five spot in the rotation, or let them go in house with someone like Lambert. Also need a catcher as Grandal isn’t it. Trade for that, or go get someone defensive minded first. Go ahead and roast me now!lol


Besides this article, this might be the dumbest sh*t I’ve read today. First, no one is trading for Moncada with that contract…literally no team would do that, so that makes your whole point moot. Now, even if they could get a taker, you think the Red Sox would trade for him back and give up Devers, one of the best pure hitters in the league? Dude, log off…you literally have no clue how any of this works and you were right in your initial assessment that this would get you booed off.

Joe T

Doesn’t hurt to try! Don’t see Boston being interested but presenting it is an option!

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