The best defensive catcher in the Kansas City farm system is starting to make some noise at the plate.
Cam Gallagher entered Omaha’s Friday game at Nashville having hit in five of his previous six starts. During that stretch, he hit a game-winning homer against Reno and drove in five runs.
And even when the former second-round draft pick hasn’t gotten hits recently, he’s made loud outs.
“I’ve been working on some stuff with our hitting coach Tommy Gregg,” he said. “It’s paying off a little bit. I’m noticing some differences here the last few days. Hopefully, we can keep on working. And, hopefully, everything can keep on carrying on and succeeding just a little bit. We’ll see how it goes.”
Gallagher has never been a big offensive threat. He’s finished a season with a batting average above .250 only twice in his first six years as a pro. His slash line was .259/.348/.359 last season in
But they don’t come much better defensively. Gallagher led all Carolina League catchers in fielding percentage (.993) in 2015 while with High-A Wilmington, then repeated the feat last summer (.996) in the Texas League with Northwest Arkansas. He threw out a league-best 48 percent of base stealers.
Ranked as Kansas City’s No. 17 prospect by Baseball America, Gallagher is expected to make the big leagues one day because of his defense. The Royals added him to their 40-man roster in November.
An increase in offensive production would speed up his ascent, although it’s tough to envision him seeing much playing time with MLB All-Star Salvidor Perez already signed through the 2021 season.
Gallagher knows he has improvements to make, but he also realizes his position remains the priority.
“I haven’t been producing offensively like I know I should and know I can,” he said. “I know my job is to get my starting pitchers through at least six then, hopefully, the bullpen can come in and shut them down. I’m going to keep trying to do that and, hopefully, I can contribute on offense a little bit more.”
Gallagher’s recent surge at the plate suggests that his production is on an upswing.
“He was getting a little down on himself offensively,” Omaha manager Brian Poldberg said. “He was starting to look at his average. He was thinking about it a little too much. It’s good to see him get going.
“There’s a lot of good things — both defensively and offensively — that he’s bringing.”
Gallagher showed his game-changing abilities in last week’s home series against Reno. One day, he threw out two runners on the base paths. The next day, he hit the go-ahead home run in a Chaser win.
The 24-year-old catcher, Kansas City’s second-round pick in the 2011 draft, is barely 100 at-bats into his first Triple-A season. Here, one step from the majors, pitchers do a lot more than throw the ball hard.
“There’s some adjustments,” Gallagher said. “I know a lot of the pitchers on the other teams in Triple-A maybe don’t have the velocity they did last year, when I was in Double-A, but they know how to pitch. (They’re) hitting spots. They don’t have the velocity that a lot of guys do. You’ve just got to battle through it and try to hit the ball to center or right-center and, hopefully, good things will happen.”
Poldberg, a former catcher, seems pleased with the progress Gallagher is making at the plate. And he’s got no complaints with the prospect’s play behind it, where he’s handled Omaha’s talented staff well.
“He’s got a good feel for these guys,” he said. “(Pitching coach Andy) Hawkins gets him in there every day, and they’ve got a good game plan of what they’re trying to do. They’ve done a pretty good job of sticking with it. Our starting pitching has been outstanding and kept us in the game many, many nights.”