Of the many triggering subjects for New York Yankees fans, the trade deadline decision to bring Joey Gallo to the Bronx is certainly up there.
Though the Yankees traded a number of prospects that may possess high ceilings to acquire the lefty slugger, the favor wasn’t returned. Gallo was more of a detriment than anything during the second half of the season, evidenced by his lackluster defense in left field as well as his .160 average with just 13 homers and 22 RBI in 58 games — eons worse than his first half in Texas.
The only positive about Gallo’s play at the plate was that his on-base percentage was 143 points higher than his average, indicating he was still able somewhat strike fear into opposing pitchers and work walks. He led the league in that category, after all, with 111 free passes on the season.
But is that enough to justify this latest suggestion from ESPN insider Buster Olney? We’re just not sure many fans would endorse this.
In his ESPN+ column (subscription required), Olney suggested having the Yankees bat Gallo leadoff in 2022 and “encourage him to just do what he does best, which is to get on base.”
Yet another move that would displace DJ LeMahieu (Gleyber Torres’ position switch did so on the defensive end) because of the team’s poor decision making. Then again, taking Gallo out of a position where he needs to drive in runs wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.
How should Yankees fans feel about batting Joey Gallo leadoff in 2022?
Gallo hit just .162 with runners in scoring position last year, and his OBP in such scenarios doesn’t matter because walks don’t score runs unless the bases are loaded. More than HALF (20!) of Gallo’s 2021 homers were solo shots. Only 38 of his 99 RBI came with runners in scoring position. All of these stats seem impossible, which does lend credence to this take.
Perhaps the Yankees will also try giving him some reps in center field, the next position he’s most effective outside of right field? Sorry, that’s an entirely different discussion.
As for his offense, again, walks are great, but what makes us think Gallo will be once again that prolific in the category as he was in 2021? Before his league-leading mark of 111, his next highest total was 75 back in 2017. While Gallo logged a career-high 153 games this past season, here are his other walk percentages from 2017, 2018 and 2020 (when he was mostly healthy during full campaigns):
- 2017: 14.1%
- 2018: 12.8%
- 2020: 12.8%
- 2021: 18%
See the clear outlier? His 2021 walk rate was 3.9% higher than his next best mark, which leads us to believe we won’t see that number escalate in 2022, and will instead see a regression toward the mean. Pardon us, but we’d rather have one of the best power hitters in the game … making more contact?
Call us crazy, but batting Gallo leadoff would signal yet another failure by the front office by acquiring a square peg and trying to fit it in a round hole. Joey Gallo has a career home run percentage of 6.6%, a hard-hit percentage of 52%, and a career batting average of .206.
That’s not a leadoff hitter. Never was, never will be. If he can’t hit the ball in the middle of this lineup, protected by so many big bats, then there just might not be a role for him at all.