I can’t lie, I was very upset when I heard the news on Friday afternoon that 24-year-old Dodgers first base prospect Austin Gallagher had not only been released by the Dodger organization, but that he had also been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance.
Gallagher was not a superstar, not by any means. In fact, he spent the last four years with the Dodgers Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. And while being 24 and still in High-A is not all that uncommon, being there for four years is. In other words, “Gallie” (as his teammates called him) hadn’t progressed and was basically going nowhere; but this never stopped me from rooting for him.
I first became aware of Gallagher during the 2011 season when I started following the Quakes on a regular basis. And even though he never really tore it up, he occasionally showed some pop and was a decent first baseman. I actually thought that he might begin the 2012 season at Double-A Chattanooga, but lo and behold, there he was on the Quakes roster. Unfortunately for Gallagher, so too was another powerful first baseman in Chris Jacobs, who saw most of the playing time. Gallagher would, however, be used as a DH.
Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Gallagher was drafted by the Dodgers in the 3rd round of the 2007 Amateur Draft at age 19 with very high hopes. In his 6 years in the minors, Gallagher hit .285, had an OBP of .360, a SLG of .430 and an OPS of .790. And while these aren’t huge numbers by High-A standards, they aren’t all that bad either – but they never improved. In his six seasons in the minors, the 6-5 / 210 pound first baseman hit a total of 46 home runs, including a career high 15 during the 2012 season. If ever there was going to be a possibility of him finally making it to Double-A, 2013 probably would have been it.
The chain of events regarding Gallagher’s release from the Dodgers is one of those chicken or the egg things. Indications are that he was released prior to his positive test results for Methylhexaneamine, but this doesn’t really make much since with spring training only a month away. It’s not like he was taking up a 40-man roster spot, so why not at least see how he does at spring training before releasing him? This makes me think that perhaps the Dodgers were aware of Gallagher’s positive test results prior to his release and that it may have been the reason for it. I have to add that this is pure speculation on my part and that I am completely unfamiliar with the rules governing releasing a player and then having MiLB suspend him for testing positive.
Methylhexaneamine is not your typical PED, at least not in the sense of what we have come to know as being a typical PED. It is used primarily as a nasal decongestant and even as a treatment for hypertrophied or hyperplasic oral tissues. It is a prescription medicine that is clearly listed on the banned substance list, and not only by the MLB, but also by the World Anti Doping Agency. It is also a high risk medicine from which there have been a number of documented deaths. As such, it is highly unlikely that Gallagher took the substance by mistake or without knowing that it was a banned substance.
No matter how you slice it, the bottom line is that Austin Gallagher is going to have a very difficult time finding another team to sign him knowing that he immediately goes on the shelf for 50 games.