MacKenzie Gore’s place in Padres’ rotation remains uncertain
The San Diego Padres have one of the most promising young pitchers in the game of baseball.
In a year marked by an ongoing global pandemic, poor faith negotiations by MLB, and what will be the shortest baseball season in the history of the game, one thing remains the same: Mackenzie Gore‘s status in the rotation being unknown despite being the Padres’ sixty-man player pool.
Even before baseball was shut down along with the rest of the country, Gore’s path to the bigs was largely uncertain and highly dependent on what the Padres determined was enough development for MLB’s fifth-best overall prospect.
The projected rotation – barring injury or a positive COVID test – is Chris Paddack, Garrett Richards, Zach Davies, Joey Lucchesi, and Dinelson Lamet. While the names look good for a team that is just opening its competitive window with more young talent sitting in the system, there are some red flags in terms of health and consistency.
Though I’ve talked about the potential dominance of a healthy Garrett Richards in the past, the problem with Richards is that he’s rarely healthy enough to produce consistently. Though the shortened season and longer ramp-up will most likely help Richards in the long-run, it’s difficult to put much stock into someone with 147.1 total innings pitched since the beginning of 2016. Though the Padres not being in a place of definite contention – along with an unprecedented season – allows them to push him as far as his repaired arm can take him while imposing an “innings limit.”
Paddack and Lamet both have had Tommy John surgeries within the last three years, and have both come off of seasons with careful workload management. Though both will throw with no limitations, there’s always caution given the irregularity of this season and whether or not the workload leading up to and through Spring Training 2.0 was enough to properly ramp them up to game speed. However, Paddack worked six innings in his most recent intrasquad start and could go up to seven innings in his final intrasquad start on July 19th before starting Opening Day on the 24th. Though news on Lamet is more scarce, it seems that he’s been equally impressive in camp.
While Lucchesi threw 26 starts in 2018 and 30 in 2019 (without injury), and Davies had started 31 games in 2019, neither has thrown more than 163.2 innings the past two years (though, to be fair, Lucchesi was a rookie in 2018), which brings us back to Gore. With a sixty-game season, no minor league baseball, Gore being on the taxi squad, and a healthy rotation that is young with an extensive injury history, there’s no better time to, at the very least, use Gore as a sixth man or an injury replacement. Innings management won’t be an issue, and Lucchesi, Paddack, and Lamet had all received plenty of innings without being established major league arms.
Ultimately, the Padres will probably have no choice but throw Gore this year, but how much we see him depends on how healthy the starting pitch can be during the season, and whether or not the Padres choose to use a more seasoned starter like Jerad Eickhoff before unleashing their top prospect on the league.
Aaron is a college student who loves baseball, writing, and learning. The game has been with him ever since he first threw a ball at the age of three, and his love for it has only evolved since. He is married to his beautiful wife, Jessalyn, and they share their home with their cat, Louise, and their dog, Lexi.
Weird time with the virus so I’m not sure how the shortened season affects a rookie’s service time and that extra year all clubs strive for. Bring them up a bit later than the start and you get that extra year of controllability.
If that’s still the case, I’d rather see Gore later or next year simply to have him one more year on the backend. If we’re in it and a playoff spot is possible, then a starter down the road might be needed. We still have a plethora of starters to choose from before tapping Gore to do so. I’ve seen him mentioned as a possible relief prospect for this year. Again, will waiting help us in the long run?
Gore isn’t on the 40-man roster yet, so his clock hasn’t started. Since Richards is in the last year of his contract, the plan appeared to be that Gore would get a mid-season call-up, and be ready to replace Richards in the rotation in 2021. The rule is still in place for time in service, as far as I know.
It doesn’t look like the plan has changed with the shorter season, and everyone who has seen Gore pitch is pretty much convinced he’s major league caliber right now. I think we’ll see Gore pitch in the majors this year, just to get his feet wet. Richards is still a free agent after the season, and Gore is still ticketed as his replacement.
I thought I read that Gore was supposed to be a RP when the season opened. I believe it was mentioned that the Pads hoped to ink Richards to another contract if he’s healthy. Lots of questions still that need answering. I’d rather ensure we get Gore and Patino later and ensure that extra year of control. I’m thankful we’ll have baseball this week. I hope they’ll all stay healthy CV-19 wise and that we don’t lose any more arms to surgery.