The Rangers number one priority this season is to protect Joey Gallo. Smother him in bubble wrap so he doesn’t get hurt.
Because the offense is Gallo, first. Nobody second. Nobody third. Nobody fourth. After that, it’s a tie for Distant Fifth.
After four seasons of futility, Joey Gallo turned the corner in 2019.
His first four cracks at hitting in the major leagues can only be described as lacking. From 2015 to 2018, he struck out more than a third of his plate appearances, had a batting average of .203, and an on-base percentage of .317 but because he hit home runs or nothing else, his OPS+ was a decent 107.
But he was the furthest thing from an offensive threat. How can you tell? They batted him seventh or eighth.
Then it all seemed to click in 2019. All those pitches he was susceptible to, suddenly he was laying off. He increased his walk rate dramatically. That forced opposing pitchers to actually throw a ball within six feet of the strike zone. Instead of swinging freer than a broken gate, Gallo got a bit more selective and turned his game around totally.
He went from All-Disappointing Team to All-Star Team.
Then, just like that, he got hurt. And the Rangers hopes went from slim to none.
So now, the Rangers come into a new season with their prime offensive weapon being a guy who has proven himself in just seventy games and fewer than 300 plate appearances. They need to hope beyond hope that 2019 wasn’t a fluke for Gallo and that he can not only replicate that in 2020 but he can build on it. Who is to say the Gallo from 2019 comes back? Or, if he does, with that violent swing, he stays healthy?
Joey Gallo is the key to this team having any chance at all. The Rangers plan is to bat him third this season, up from last year’s fifth slot and the previous years’ seventh. Not only does that ensure more at-bats and guarantee that Gallo gets up in the first inning, it also signifies that he is the engine of the offense.
With a healthy Gallo in 2020, the Rangers have a real chance to finish third. If he misses significant time, it will be a long long season.
It’s simplifying it to say Gallo is the only offense the Rangers have this season. But that’s not far from the truth.