Maybe it's true that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But when two baseball hitting prospects and boyhood friends have a flair for making noise in increments of 450 feet, the industry buzz is going to be difficult to contain.
Chicago Cubs third-base prospect Kris Bryant, the second overall pick in the 2013 first-year player draft, has lived up to the hype this year while laying waste to pitching at two levels. He has 31 homers and a .701 slugging percentage between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, and Cubs fans are looking forward to the day he and fellow prospect Javier Baez can give the franchise its first 30-plus-homer duo since Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez in 2005.
Bryant is tied for the minor league lead with Texas Rangers third-base prospect Joey Gallo, a fellow Las Vegas native who faced him in high school. Gallo went to Bishop Gorman High in the city, and he's proud to say that he once made a pitching cameo against Bryant and Bonanza High and lived to tell about it.
"I came on in relief and he got a hit off me, but it was only a single," Gallo recalled. "And it was with a metal bat. The old metal bats."
Pacific Coast League pitchers might consider that an achievement against Bryant, who is 22 years old, is 6-foot-5, 215 pounds and hits from the right side of the plate. He honed his game as a University of San Diego Torero and went to Chicago one spot after the Houston Astros selected Stanford pitcher Mark Appel with the top choice in the 2013 draft.
Gallo, 20, is 6-5, 205 and bats from the left side. He has a long swing that has produced a whopping 40 percent strikeout rate in the minor leagues, but his power first manifested itself during his Little League days and has yet to wane. Gallo set a Nevada high school state record with 65 home runs, prompting the Rangers to select him with the 39th pick in the 2012 draft and sign him to a $2.25 million bonus. Gallo hit 18 homers in 150 at-bats in rookie ball in his first professional season, and last year he led the minors with 40 homers even though he missed a month with a groin strain.
Power comes so naturally to Gallo, he seems baffled that it's such a rare and elusive commodity in baseball. His ability to pepper the bleachers with long, arcing rainbow shots and bust windshields in nearby parking lots is sufficiently fascinating that FanGraphs recently broke it down with a "War and Peace"-caliber scouting analysis.
"I'm not a big, huge body-builder guy, but I see big, strong guys who don't drive the ball and I'm like, How?" Gallo said. "It's hard for me to understand. I'm tall and I get leverage, and ever since I was a little kid I could hit the ball out of the park. Kind of like Bryant. People tell me it's because of my torque, my hips or whatever. I don't really try to do it. It just kind of happens."
The Rangers have maintained patience with Gallo during this lost season in Arlington, and he continues to address the finer points of the game in Double-A Frisco. After tough days at the yard, Gallo reflects on the lessons he's learned from big leaguer Jason Giambi, who lives in Las Vegas and worked with him during the offseason.