Gallen getting closer to his goal
Improved cutter could be ticket to the majors
JUPITER — Zac Gallen noticed something felt off midway through the season.
The Miami Marlins pitching prospect was in Triple-A New Orleans last year and had experienced mixed results during his first full season at the minor league’s highest level.
Acquired from St. Louis in the Marcell Ozuna trade, the righthander posted a 4.24 ERA and .301 opposing batting average in the first half and felt the cutter — his go-to pitch from college through the minors — had lost some of its effectiveness.
“About the middle of the season we were talking and I said, ‘[My arm slot] doesn’t feel natural,’ ” Gallen said. “‘I feel like I’m getting caught [too high],’ so it was something we looked at.
“The cutter was something I knew I had to work on. I had it early and somewhere down the road just lost it, so that was something I just tried to concentrate on.”
If his second half is any indication, Gallen’s heading on the right path.
In nine starts after the All-Star
break, the 23-year-old notched a 2.61 ERA and lowered his opposing batting average to .245 — down
.56 from his first half numbers. His strikeout-to-walk ratio also improved from
2.67-to-1 to 3.11-to-1.
The Marlins’ 19th rated prospect per Baseball America, Gallen spent the offseason in his homestate of New Jersey continuing to craft his cutter.
“It was my pitch all the way from college and all the way up to the beginning of last year,” Gallen said. “I think with the arm slot getting high, being a little unnatural, it suffered. That was the thing I worked on.
“I felt like it was getting better and better as I played catch the past couple of weeks. So I just try to take what I worked on out there and it happened to work.”
A former University of North Carolina standout, Gallen was a third-round pick in 2016 and quickly ascended through the Cardinals organization, matriculating from High-A to Triple-A in 2017. After being traded to the Marlins, he continued his growth in New Orleans.
With a strong pitch mix — he also utilizes a low 90’s fastball, change-up and curveball — along with his success in Triple-A, Gallen could be a call-up this season.
He has made one spring training appearance, pitching one scoreless inning and striking out two against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I felt like my cutter was really good — getting back to form,” Gallen said.
While the Marlins have a large contingent of starting pitchers — seven, not including minor league prospect Nick Neidert — injuries and attrition always occur, meaning it’s likely Gallen sees himself in the Marlins’ new colors at some point this year. When that moment comes, the right-hander says he’ll be ready.
“I think the mindset you have to have, is that as soon as you get drafted, you prepare mentally, because you never know when it could happen,” Gallen said.
“It’s definitely getting a little more serious now. I’m just trying to go out there and compete everyday, show them what I’ve got and what I’m made of and hopefully those things fall into place.”
Marlins manager Don Mattingly has seen Gallen in camp for the past two years and has seen him continue to progress.
“We like his pitch mix, his weapons are good,” Mattingly said.
“He’s still a young kid and so the development side is important for him to continue — what’s his mix going to be, how’s he going to use it? Part of that experience of playing at different levels and pitching in camp is the experience you gain. So you’re looking for them to kind of take little nicks, getting comfortable, how they’re using their pitches differently — just the way they go about it.”
Miami Marlins pitching prospect Zac Gallen could be in line for a big league call-up this season.