After almost an entire season wondering when he would reach the Double-A level, MacKenzie Gore has arrived in Amarillo.
After getting a taste of what the best of this San Diego Padres system had to offer position-player wise with Fernando Tatis Jr., the Sod Poodles will get a look at the new Padres #1 prospect and #3 in all of MLB MacKenzie Gore.
The left-hander from Whiteville North Carolina has put up video game numbers in the California League playing in Lake Elsinore recording a 1.02 ERA on the season. That mark is not only 86 points ahead of the next closest pitcher (1.88) but is also below the WHIP of every other pitcher in the league.
Gore has allowed only single digits runs thus far in the season (nine) during his starts. The stat that probably indicates his dominance the most in Lake Elsinore is that hitters are batting .135 while also striking out 38.2% of the time. The southpaw did this in the California League, one of the most hitter-friendly leagues in the minors.
Gore was invited to participate in the MLB Futures Game and showcased his skills. After a rare four-pitch walk to Angels’ prospect Jo Adell, Gore quickly erased him as a threat, picking him off of first base. The rest of the inning, Gore would retire the next two batters on just seven pitches. This was a lineup of the best prospects in the league.
For those who haven’t seen MacKenzie throw a pitch, his high school pitching coach Fielding Hammonds describes his mechanics as “Unorthodox, but it works. It’s not something you would teach. It’s not something you’re going to teach your eight or nine-year-old, but it’s something that works for him, and it’s efficient. There’s no wasted movement in his windup what so ever. It just works, but it takes a special type of athlete to pull it off,” Hammonds said. Gore’s leg kick has become famous around minor league baseball and could be described as Dontrelle Willis with a much calmer upper-half of the body. The southpaw has dominated his opponents with his ability to place his mid-nineties fastball that sets up his slider, change-up, and curveball. The ability to have four plus-pitches while also having a windup with a ton of deception is something that puts Gore among the best.
One of the many things that stands out about Gore is his unmatched work ethic. His high-school pitching coach had this memory to share. “So we’re hanging out downstairs, and I keep hearing this thud upstairs, and I said- Meredith what is he doing?” Hammonds said to his wife. “He’s just practicing his wind-up in the mirror that’s what it is.” Mrs. Hammonds replied. “He did this all the time. He would just practice his windup at home in the mirror.”
That determination and work ethic paid off, as Gore would go 41-2 in his high school pitching career with a North Carolina record 0.19 ERA (0.08 his junior year) and a 158-2 strikeout to walk ratio, winning three state championships in the process. The Padres liked what they saw in Gore enough to draft him with the third overall pick as a pitcher, but Gore shined on both facets of the game in high school. “When he got drafted they told us that if he would have been just an outfielder, not a pitcher at all, he would have been drafted in the fourth or fifth round. He’s that special of an athlete, and can windmill a basketball.” Hammonds said. He displays what athleticism and work ethic look like when put together.
The road hasn’t been without its challenges for Gore, as he ran into a blister issue that cost him almost half of his 2018 season. Despite that, the Padres saw enough in their third overall pick to promote him to Lake Elsinore to start the year. He would bounce back from his issues, and after only fifteen starts with the Storm, Gore received his second promotion in a calendar year. He will join the first-half champion Amarillo Sod Poodles in the Texas League. With Gore and the recent return of flamethrower Andres Munoz on the roster, the Sod Poodles now have nine (11 if you include Avila and Lawson) of top 30 Padres prospects on the roster right now. At some point this season the Sod Poodles could have a rotation that includes Adrian Morejon, MacKenzie Gore, and if he returns to being a starter Michel Baez. Amarillo is one step closer to San Diego for the 20-year-old, and with his mindset and performance, it likely won’t be long before he pitches at Petco Park. When asked about MacKenzie Gore’s mindset, Hammonds left us with this-
“He doesn’t just want to get it done. He wants to be dominant, and that’s just his mindset.”