Searching for Saves: Could The Cardinals’ Giovanny Gallegos Emerge As The Next Great Closer?

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Time will tell if the chatter of Carlos Martinez moving back to the Cardinals’ starting rotation proves true, after he appeared to find his footing as the team’s closer a year ago.  What happens if the team follows through, though?  With Jordan Hicks sidelined who could step up and emerge?  While Andrew Miller is the big name that’s going to catch our attention, he’s not the name to know.  That belongs to Giovanny Gallegos, who could have both the stuff and opportunity. Just look at the numbers from last season:

74.0 IP
3 Wins
19 Holds (1 Save)
2.31 ERA
0.81 WHIP
93 Strikeouts (10.67 K/9)
16 Walks (1.95 BB/9)
33.5% Groundball Rate
.222 BABIP

Obviously he benefited from extreme luck in his BABIP and 87.3% strand rate, though that doesn’t mean the stuff isn’t there.  Over his minor league career (410.2 IP) he posted a 9.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, and after he posted a 14.6% SwStr% in the minor leagues in ’18 he was even better in the Majors last season:

  • SwStr% – 16.3%
  • O-Swing% – 36.2%

Primarily a two-pitch guy, he did the job with a lights out slider (24.75% Whiff%) and a fastball that opponents had little success against (.206 BAA/.340 SLG).  The problem is the potential for home run issues, considering a 33.5% groundball rate in ’19 (38.0% in the minors in ’18 and 31.0% in ‘17).  He allowed a 1.09 HR/9 in ’19, though the split is a little bit surprising (HR/9):

  • Home – 1.69
  • Road – 0.64

We’d expect the road mark to regress, though the home mark should improve.  That should result in only a minor step backwards overall, and while the luck metrics are a bigger concern it’s not enough.  The strikeouts and control are elite, and he’s displayed it both in the Majors and minors.  He may have some bumps, but the Cardinals clearly have already trusted him in the late innings (as displayed by the Holds) and he could step in as the bridge until Hicks is ready (or Martinez is bumped from the rotation).

If you are searching for saves, he’s worth the gamble.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference

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