Big League Debut: Zac Gallen, Miami Marlins

Long considered an unexciting future major leaguer who’d toil in the annals of “Solid backend starter” land, Zac Gallen was somewhat of an afterthought after the Cardinals drafted him in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft. But he was an advanced righty, rising quickly through the minors on the back of his feel for sequencing and strong command of his arsenal that helped his pitches play up.

Perhaps we were too dismissive about someone who debuted full time at Triple-A as a 22-year-old. Gallen forced the baseball world to notice his performance this year as he jumps to the majors with a 1.77 ERA (3.25 FIP), 0.71 WHIP, 11 K/9 and a 1.7 BB/9. All of this in the PCL with the new ball. There were signs of this in spring training when he showed up with new velocity, going from 91-93 mph to 94-95 mph, touching 96 and 97 on occasion. With a Pablo Lopez shoulder injury opening the door for him, Gallen might stick in the rotation for a good while.

The Rankings

Zac Gallen clocked in at #12 in my Marlins Top 30 and….that’s it.

The Tools

Fastball (60 present/60 future): Before the season, I’d have rated Gallen’s fastball as average. Right now I’d peg it at plus with his new mid-90s velocity. It has some arm-side run that bores in on righties and sometimes fools them into thinking it’ll stay in the zone but before they know it they’re trying to check a bad swing. He’ll turn to a cutter, a pitch that’s been a major part of his success in the early going, for opposite handed hitters. He spent the offseason working on it and ensuring his arm slot didn’t get too high where it’d lose effectiveness. It’s been a weapon to keep lefties in check as they’ve hit just .121 off of him.

Curveball (50/50): Gallen’s curve is a true 12-6 offering that he uses to either bury into the ground or occasionally steal a strike. It’s pretty loopy with no sharp bite but he sells it well after a fastball. It’s enough to keep hitters off balance. I’ve seen a few pitches that look a little slurvy so I wonder if he manipulates the shape, but I haven’t seen reports of him doing that.

Changeup (55/55): Another quality offering with some dive and drop, it plays up because of his exceptional arm speed. Gallen’s wind up is pretty standard as he comes set, but then he accelerates toward the plate with good deception, seemingly surprising the hitter and making it a little difficult to time him up.

Prediction: Gallen’s strong command and sequencing are the stars here. But add in his added velo and now you have the makings of a strong SP4, maaaybe SP3 if he continues improving his arsenal with the big league coaching staff (they’re pretty adept with changeups). I’m tempering my expectations relative to his PCL performance, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t leave the big league rotation for the rest of the year. He’s not in danger of being shut down, either. In fantasy, spend 15 to 20 percent of your starting FAAB on him. He’s an auto start at home and a streamer on the road. Here’s to the beginning of a successful career.