Last year the Rangers opted to go with a pair of high upside high school players with their two picks in the first round, selecting center fielder Lewis Brinson with the 29th overall pick and third baseman Joey Gallo 10 picks later.
And during their initial showings in the Arizona Summer League last season, both displayed impressive toolkits: Brinson flashed five-tool potential and Gallo, who entered the draft with the greatest power potential, slugged 22 dingers in just 59 games.
The lone red flag for both players, however, was some massive strikeout rates. Brinson punched out in nearly 27% of the time and Gallo went further, at 27.9%.
Fast forward half a season and the pair are posting some impressive numbers as teenagers in A-ball (.244/.323/.456 and .252/.341/.591), but the K-rates have spiked to enormous proportions. Among minor leaguers with at least 150 plate appearances, Brinson’s mark, 39.1%, ranks as the fourth highest and Gallo’s 37.2% is tenth.
Up to this point, however, both players have not been that affected by their inability to the put the ball in play.
According to Weighted Runs Created Plus, a league and park adjusted stat, both have performed at above-average levels. Brinson’s topped the SALLY average by 17% and Gallo has been among the top performers in the league, at 52%. At some point, though, it will eventually catch up to them.
And here’s why: there’s really no precedent for these types of K-rates for a full season and future big league success — particularly at this level.
Going all the way back to 1989, only Russell Branyan and Lee Tinsley have punched out at similar rates and turned into anything that resembles a serviceable big leaguer – though Houston’s Domingo Santana, who I ranked as the 51st best prospect in baseball, does have a legitimate shot due to his age and level of competition. And Tinsley received just 979 plate appearances during his big league career.
As toolsy as both players are — Brinson has 25/25 potential and Gallo could have the best power in the minor leagues — there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of hope for them going forward.
Photo Courtesy of Joey Gallo Courtesy of James Snook via MiLB.com