Many articles have been written, and rightfully so, on the top prospects in the Cardinals organization. For this piece however, I want to take a look at a name likely unknown to many Cardinals fans, but one they should become acquainted with. Zac Gallen is in his second season in the organization and has already reached AAA Memphis. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of the University of North Carolina. Our 18th ranked prospect, he does not have the pure stuff of other higher ranked prospects, but he has produced at every stop in his minor league career.
Following his college career at UNC, Gallen was assigned to the GCL Cardinals. He pitched in six games, and made three starts. Although it was a small sample, the innings he did throw (against younger competition) were very impressive. He gave up just two earned runs, in 9.2 innings, while striking out 15.
To start 2017 Gallen was aggressively assigned to High-A Palm Beach. He picked up right where he left off 2016, and completely dominated through nine starts. He earned a spot on the Florida State League mid-season all-star team and a promotion to AA Springfield. With Palm Beach, Gallen was 5-2 with a 1.62 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and struck out 56 batters in 55.2 innings.
Now in his second tour with Springfield, Gallen has continued to be successful. Although his strikeout rate has dipped, he has still posted a quality 2.74 ERA and 1.10 WHIP while going 4-2. Some regression in the numbers from Palm Beach was to be expected in the jump to the hitter friendly Texas League. Gallen has yielded just three home runs so far in his seven starts. Opponents are hitting .248 against him and have drawn a mere eight walks (one of which was intentional).
In the middle of his two stints with Springfield, Gallen received a brief promotion to AAA Memphis. Making three starts with the Redbirds, he held his own and actually posted a better strikeout rate more in line with what he produced at Palm Beach. His 1.15 WHIP and 3.45 ERA are also very impressive for a first time pitcher in the PCL. He slightly struggled in his debut, giving up three runs in five innings. However, he bounced back strongly giving up just three earned total over his next two starts (10.2 innings).
Gallen features four pitches; a fastball, curveball, cutter, and changeup. He throws from a higher arm angle which gives his pitches a strong downward plane and allows his changeup to bottom out when he is commanding it. His cutter is a solid pitch, which he can use to get in on left handed batters. Gallen’s fastball has good movement, especially when down in the zone and can induce ground balls. His curve appears to be the least effective pitch he posses, but can still locate it to keep hitters honest. Gallen can spot his pitches on both sides of the plate and also work up and down.
Anything he lacks in overpowering pure stuff, he makes up for in feel for pitching, and professional approach. He is not a flashy pitcher, but can dial up his fastball to 96 mph, although he usually sits in the lower 90s. Similar to Jack Flaherty, his control of the game, and each at-bat is impressive. As Kyle Reis noted in his mid-season prospect ranking, Gallen is best when attacking the zone and challenging hitters. While likely a back of the rotation starter in the major leagues, Gallen has the stuff and pitch-ability to be successful.
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