Despite some issues with his batted ball profile, Giovanny Gallegos was quite effective in the 2020 season. He converted all four of his save opportunities, and posted a 3.60 earned run average (2.06 FIP) and a 0.87 WHIP across 15 innings of work. He served two separate injured list stints last year, but he missed the bare minimum amount of time, or just shortly past the required time. When he was on the mound, and missing bats, things were good. However, when he didn’t miss bats, things went a bit haywire. More on that coming later. Gallegos did get lucky at times, and the overall stat line could have been way worse than it was, but fortunately, it all worked out. Now, what does his fantasy value look like for the 2021 season? Let’s examine.
Let’s start with when he missed bats, which happened pretty frequently. He posted a career-best 36.8 percent strikeout rate last year, on the back of inducing a ton of misses outside the strike zone. He induced more chases, as well as more misses out of the zone. You love to see it!
You can see that the trends above are about as good as it can get. His O-contact rate is decreasing. His overall contact rate is decreasing. His strikeout rate is increasing, and coinciding with his increasing swinging strike rate. Of relievers that pitched at least 10 innings in the 2020 season, Gallegos posted the 13th-lowest O-contact rate and seventh-best swinging strike rate.
He continues to throw his slider more, and the 2020 season marked the first time that he threw his slider more than his four-seamer. Well, it certainly didn’t hurt the whiff rate of his slider, and it allowed his fastball to remain effective.
When he wasn’t missing bats, we’ll start with the one positive, and it was that he posted a career-high 41.9 percent ground ball rate. Compared to 2019, both of his primary pitches had an increased ground ball rate compared to 2019. While he’s far from a ground ball specialist, his launch angle of 14.9 degrees was his lowest mark in the past four years, and far better than 2019’s career-high 19.6 degrees.
Unfortunately, the contact against Gallegos was solid, whether it was in the air, or on the ground. The right-hander was hit hard in 2020.
His average exit velocity was 92.2 miles per hour. Ouch.
On fly balls and line drives in particular it was 97.2 degrees. Ouch.
On ground balls, it was 90.2 degrees. Ouch.
Of pitchers that had at least 25 batted ball events in 2020, here’s where Gallegos ranked:
- Exit Velocity: 23rd-highest
- Exit Velocity on FB/LD: 15th-highest
- Exit Velocity on GB: 49th-highest
Gallegos was one of just 7 pitchers in all of baseball to rank in the bottom 50 in each of those three statistics above. For the record, there were 511 pitchers that logged at least 10 innings last year. Ouch.
I don’t want to scare you away, because it doesn’t have to be indicative of future performance, however, it happened, and just last year.
Courtesy of Baseball Savant
Three other pitches matched or exceeded Gallegos’ launch angle, exit velocity metrics and barrel rate. A couple degrees off the launch angle and percentage points from barrel rate make a big difference, but to be frank, it’s not a ringing endorsement by any means. I do think he’ll be better than his 2020 season, but he’s going to need to limit the hard contact substantially, especially if he wants to fend off Jordan Hicks for the closing gig.
I still think the Cardinals want Jordan Hicks to close, but until they fully trust Hicks, Gallegos could get the lion’s share of the opportunities at least to open the year. Some of his 2020 issues could be chalked up to not being able to establish any sort of rhythm or consistency due to two injured list trips and the Cardinals’ COVID-19 issues throughout the year. A more normal offseason, spring training and start of the season should Gallegos, and he could end up being an early trade piece for many fantasy baseball managers.
Gallegos likely opens the year as the team’s closer, and he should be valuable there, along with his strikeout potential. However, the healthier Hicks gets and the more dominant he looks, the Cardinals will likely shift him to the ninth, and Gallegos becomes a high-leverage reliever. Even if he’s not closing, he’s valuable in solds formats as a ratios booster, and the team’s priority setup guy.