After a disappointing first full season in 2013, Jeff Gelalich began the 2014 season repeating Low-A Dayton. Burdened with the expectations that come with being a 1st round compensation pick, it was anticipated that Gelalich would dominate the Midwest League competition from the start. Unfortunately, he struggled out of the gate, as he posted a .202/.299/.266 for the month of April. The positive underlying factor was that he posted an 11.1% walk rate, a 21.3% strikeout rate for the month, and had a BABIP of only .257.
Gelalich started the next month strongly, as he attempted to rebound from a slow April. For a nine game stretch, from May 8 through May 19, he hit safely in eight of nine games, slashing .385/.429/.667, with seven extra base hits. He was unable to continue his successful streak, as he finished the final 11 games of the month with just 7 singles in 40 at-bats, culminating in a final slash line of .243/.319/.369 for the month of May.
Upon returning from a brief DL stint, due to a bruised foot, Gelalich would return on June 12th, but only played four more games for the Dayton Dragons. In mid-June, he was promoted to High-A Bakersfield for the remainder of the year. Gelalich transitioned well to the Advanced-A level, as he batted .311 with a solid 8.4% walk rate over his first 11 games. The lack of power continued to be a concern for the former 1st round sandwich pick however, as he did not accumulate an extra base hit over the entire month of June (66 PA’s).
Gelalich began July with a bang, collecting three hits in the first game of the month, and then celebrated America’s birthday with another 3-hit game on July 4th. The remainder of the month provided mixed results for the left-handed hitter. He only hit safely in 8 of the final 18 games in the month, failing to reach the Mendoza line, however he did show some pop, as 8 of his 13 hits during this stretch went for extra bases, including four homers. This was significant because Gelalich had only connected for five long balls in his entire professional career up to that point (975 PA’s). The unexpected power outburst combined with his solid 8.4% walk rate helped him OPS .746 during his first full month in Bakersfield.
In August, Gelalich continued his offensive improvement, as he produced his best month of the season. During a 7-game hitting streak from August 10th through August 17th, he banged out 12 hits, including 3 homers, as he slashed a sizzling .375/.375/.719. Gelalich’s bat cooled down over the final 12 games, but he finished the final month of the season hitting .243/.325/.449 with strong peripherals, as he posted a 0.46 BB/K rate. He carried his strong finish into the California League playoffs, where he hit .250/.368/.563 over four games (16 PA’s). Let it be noted that I am the first person to place the vaunted tag of “Clutch Postseason Performer” on Gelalich.
After a very slow start to his 2014 campaign in Dayton, Gelalich rebounded after a promotion to Bakersfield, where he started to show a little bit of power, in addition to an above average walk rate. However, it is very possible that Gelalich’s power surge was the result of the hitter friendly California League, as opposed to a significant upgrade in his power tool. In his first two-plus seasons, Gelalich has struggled at the plate, due to a high number of strikeouts and his lack of power output. However, the former 1st round pick will look to carry the momentum he gained in Bakersfield into a successful 2015 season, which will be his age-24 season.
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