Baseball evaluators feel that the top two pitching prospects in the San Diego Padres minor league system are very close to achieving the top of the rotation potential.
The following is a closer look at the two phenoms and what San Diego Padres fans can look forward to when they achieve their potential at the major league level. We are assuming no major injury issues sidetrack them while they work toward their professional ceilings.
The Silent Assassin
Mackenzie Gore was given this nickname by Jim Callis of MLBPipeline when discussing his admiration for the Padres prospect. Callis is known to favor Gore over all the other lefty prospects in baseball.
At the time of the 2017 draft, Gore was taken number three overall behind SS Royce Lewis of the Twins and RHP Hunter Greene of the Reds. Lewis remains the top prospect for the Twins and Greene had Tommy John surgery last season. If Gore makes his major league debut in 2020, he will be pitching with the Padres in his age 21 season.
Despite missing a good portion of the 2018 season due to blister and fingernail issues, Gore came on strong in 2019. Pitching 101 innings between Single-A Lake Elsinore (79.8 innings) and Double-A Amarillo (21.2 innings), he ended with a 1.69 ERA and135 strikeouts between the two leagues. At 6′-3″ and 195 pounds, Gore will fill out more as he matures but already throws his fastball in the mid to upper 90s. He throws a power slider, an above-average curveball, and a plus changeup.
The most impressive thing is his repeatable delivery with a high leg kick reminiscent of Clayton Kershaw. He holds his delivery throughout his starts with excellent control and command for such a young pitcher.
The other qualities that contribute to his high evaluation are his competitive nature, athleticism, and aptitude for baseball. He is uncommonly mature for someone with such little professional experience.
If he achieves his top of the rotation ceiling, it is not hard to imagine a career that could parallel Clayton Kershaw. The challenge will be to control his innings and workload while building up his arm as he matures.
For this reason, I see him starting the season in AA Amarillo or AAA El Paso with a promotion to the Friars after about 60-80 innings unless injury pushes the timeline.
I can’t envision more than 140 innings for him this season as the organization builds his workload. As fans, we are all frustrated by workload management for the pitching staff, but patience is an important consideration for someone who can be a major talent going forward.
If he can pitch in 10-12 games and be limited to five to six innings per start, we will be able to appreciate what possibilities exist for the 2021 season.
Mackenzie Gore has achieved great success in such a short period. The big leap to the major league team should be timed to allow him the best opportunity for success as well as protecting him physically to enable him to have a long and successful career.