St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals: Don’t forget about Giovanny Gallegos

There have been many names discussed as back-end options for the St. Louis Cardinals, but one name that is being glossed over is Giovanny Gallegos.

The St. Louis Cardinals are going to have a stellar bullpen in 2021 if the group can stay healthy. With the return of Jordan Hicks, there aren’t weak links out there.

While the Cardinals are normally hesitant to name a definite “closer,” especially this early in spring, the debate about who should take the 9th inning has already begun.

In recent seasons, the closer for the Cardinals has been a split job over a few different names. In 2019, Carlos Martinez fell into the role out of necessity. Despite some memorable blown saves, Martinez saved 24 games in 27 attempts after filling in when Jordan Hicks (14 saves) was injured.

In 2020, the Cardinals spread save opportunities over seven different players, with Andrew Miller and the focus of this article, Giovanny Gallegos, leading with four saves apiece.

Coming into 2021, the main options for the role are Hicks, Alex Reyes, Miller, and Gallegos with some fans hoping for Martinez again.

It appears that Martinez is going to try his hand at the rotation again, but too many fans are overlooking how well Gallegos could do in the closer role.

2020 was a tough season for Gallegos because he had issues getting to the states during the middle of the pandemic. Because of this, he only threw 15.0 innings last season and despite good results, seemed like a forgotten man in the bullpen.

In 2021, Gallegos should start the year as closer over Hicks, Reyes, or anyone else. For the biggest reason why, let’s look at his 2019.

2019 was really Gallegos’ coming out party in the MLB after a couple of short stints in the previous two years. Over 74.0 innings, Gallegos had a 2.33 ERA and a 3.05 FIP. He struck out batters at a 33% clip and walked just 1.9 batters per nine. This fantastic season was good for a 183 ERA+ and the majority of his appearances were in the 8th inning.

One of the most important traits of a late-inning reliever is the ability to throw strikes. Walks late in a game can be a disaster and Gallegos walked the fewest batters out of anyone in the bullpen in both 2019 and 2020.

Alex Reyes has not yet proven he can control the strike zone at the MLB level (6.4 BB/9 in 2020) and Andrew Miller is a solid backup option for closer but is in his age-36 season. As for Jordan Hicks, he is a good choice to get back to closer at some point, but coming off of Tommy John surgery, there will be an adjustment period before he’s back to 100% with his repaired elbow.

The galaxy brain answer for what to do with Gallegos is to keep him in his 2019 7th or 8th inning role where Mike Shildt uses him in the highest-leverage spot of the game. It’s unclear whether or not Shildt used him in that role in 2019 on purpose or not. There is a chance that he only closed in 2020 at times because of an absence of other options.

By mid-season, it would make sense to see Hicks back as closer which would free up Gallegos to be the highest-leverage guy again. At the beginning of the season though, Gallegos makes the most sense as the closer unless Hicks looks ready to go or another arm steps up.

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Whether he pitches as a closer or in another role, Gallegos is a great asset that many fans seem to be overlooking in preparation for 2021.

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