Cardinals: Hello, Giovanny Gallegos!

Last July the Cardinals traded the 2019 AL MVP to the Yankees in the form of Luke Voit. The immediate major league return was lefty Chasen Shreve. Also in on the deal, and very unheralded, was RHP Giovanny Gallegos.

I liked the potential for Shreve alot, but after perusing Gallegos’ minor league numbers, I was convinced that he was secretly the primary target of the trade. Mo has a history of doing that, getting Randal Grichuk as a toss in for Fernando Salas as part of the Freese/Bourjos trade. He attempted to get a prize in Conner Greene as an add-on in the Grichuk/Leone trade as well. So I thought that, once again, Mo had made the upside play on the secondary trade piece and that this dude was primed to make an impact.

Let me tell you why.

In 20 games at the AA level, Gallegos struck out 39.2% of batters faced. He walked just 5.9%.

In 72 games in AAA for the Yankees, he struck out 35.7% and walked just 6%.

In 2017 alone he carried a 40.8% K-rate across 28 games. His 69 strikeouts ranked 5th among International League relievers, and the top 4 all had at least 12 more appearances than him. Nice.

Even in limited duty with the Yankees between 2017 & ’18, he struck out 25% and walked 6.25%.

While the elite minor league strikeout rate didn’t fully translate — although 25% is still above average — what was really encouraging was that the walk rate remained constant. By the numbers, he appeared to be similar to John Brebbia (career 27% K%, 7.2% BB%) with slightly better control, and very capable of becoming an average to above major league reliever.

For a big league bullpen that was searching for strikeout punch and struggling with walks, he seemed like a perfect remedy.

But Gallegos was left in Memphis for their 2018 playoff run, while the MLB bullpen, hot in August, struggled through September. Gallegos wasn’t called on to help until the final days of the year, appearing in just 2 games.

My confidence was shook. Maybe they weren’t so high on him after all.

I had a hard time believing that 3 years of really good minor league numbers and a solid sampling of MLB work were total lies, so with him destined to be the primary RH reliever on the 2019 Memphis Shuttle, I figured it was just a matter of time before the performance showed up.

Apr 22, 2019; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Giovanny Gallegos (65) celebrates with catcher Matt Wieters (32) after the Cardinals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Oh boy, has it.

While he has been touched for 2 HR’s (who hasn’t?), this man is striking out the world. In an obviously very limited sample, he has struck out 42.9% of batters this season (18 of 42) and has kept the walk-rate in check at 7.2%. He has really been a star during the series with Washington, suddenly finding himself in high-leverage appearances. He earn 2 holds while pitching the 6th and 7th innings of close games, he struck out 4 of the 10 batters faced, walking none.

He is effectively filling the role vacated by Mike Mayers, but has much higher strikeout potential than Mayers’ rate of 21.3% over the last 2 seasons.

With Mayers due to be absent for several months, Gallegos has a great opportunity to seize a secondary setup role behind John Brebbia. However, there are some challengers to his spot. Ryan Helsley impressed during his short run and Carlos Martinez will eventually work back as a reliever.

The most immediate threat is the imminent return of Luke Gregerson. Finally healthy and pitching well during his rehab, Gregerson could bump either Gallegos or LH Tyler Webb from the major league staff. The other option, of course, would be to send little-used Yairo Muñoz back to Memphis and keep all of Gallegos, Webb, and Gregerson on the staff for the time being. Carrying the extra arm may be a wise move as the team heads into Wrigley field, 7 games into a stretch of 17 without an off-day.

All-in-all, we are finally getting a long look at this exciting arm and he could be a big piece for this team moving forward.

Thanks for reading!

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Thanks to Fangraphs for the stats! Featured image: Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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