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.