When Will We See MacKenzie Gore at the Big League Level?

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There is the thought that MacKenzie Gore could be ready for big league action very soon. The San Diego Padres need pitching help, but when will see the 20-year-old left-hander in the major leagues?

It is usually a consensus agreement around the baseball industry that the San Diego Padres boast the best farm system in all of baseball. With a pipeline full of talent from top to bottom, the future looks as bright as ever for the Friars.

The strength of this farm system is pitching, by quite a large margin, as general manager, A.J. Preller has constructed a system with an incredible amount of talented pitching prospects. San Diego boasts seven pitchers on the MLB Pipeline top 100 prospect lists, and there are undoubtedly many other pitchers within the system that could see their names on the list shortly.

In a system known for its talented pitching, left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore stands above them all.

Drafted out of Whiteville High School in North Carolina, the Padres’ selected Gore with the third overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft. Some analysts believed that Gore and his video-game-like high school statistics should have been selected first overall, while members of the Padres’ brass said they would have selected Gore with the first pick if it belonged to them.

The former East Carolina University commit did not have an eventful professional debut, as blister issues plagued Gore for the majority of his 2018 campaign. After a full off-season of recovery and rest, Gore enters the 2019 season with a chip on his shoulder. He’s ready to put his blister issues behind him and prove to the world that he is capable of being the dominant pitcher that the Padres’ envisioned him being when they made him the third overall pick in the draft.

So far, Gore’s gotten off to a pretty incredible start. The 20-year-old southpaw has only made three starts with the Lake Elsinore Storm, but he’s looked every bit of the part in each of them. In 16 innings pitched on the year, Gore has struck out 18 batters, while only walking two, and has given up two runs. Opponents are hitting for a pitiful .167 average against him, and he is allowing less than one batter to reach base per inning (0.69). Realistically speaking, Gore is not going to spend much longer in Lake Elsinore. If he continues to dominate, or even show flashes of domination, the Padres will likely promote him to Double-A Amarillo at the minor league mid-season point.

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So, the question we’ve all been waiting for, when will MacKenzie Gore reach the major leagues?

One thing should be clarified before an answer is given: Gore will make his debut with the Padres. With how well he’s been pitching as of late, and the signs he has flashed, it’s almost a guarantee at this point that San Diego would move on from the second rated left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball. If they were to move Gore, the return would be astronomical, but it’s safe to say that MacKenzie Gore will make his debut with the Padres.

It should also be documented that all of this is contingent on Gore staying healthy in 2019. The Padres’ main priority is Gore’s health, and if something were to pop up unexpectedly, they would take every step possible to ensure that he is not affected in the long-term.

With that out of the way, let’s realistically break this down. It’s incredible how impressive Gore’s arsenal is when taking into consideration that he is only 20 years old. On the 20-80 scouting scale, a 55 is considered to be an “above-average” pitch. All four of Gore’s pitches are already graded as above-average, with his fastball and curveball earning a 60 or a “plus” grade by scouts. His control is already graded as above-average as well, meaning that Gore has an above-average arsenal with the ability to control all four of his pitches at an above-average rate.

There’s no denying that the Padres have been extremely aggressive in promoting their young prospects as of late. Highly-rated prospects Chris Paddack and Fernando Tatis Jr., both skipped Triple-A and jumped straight to the major league club this season. It was not too long ago that both Pedro Avila and Nick Margevicius made their major league debuts despite only having one start at the Double-A level. It’s evident that the Padres’ front office is not afraid to be aggressive with the organization’s young players if they feel that they are ready to impact the major league club positively.

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This works well for Gore, as he has been dominant in both of his outings this season. It’s not outrageous to think that, despite only being in A-ball, Gore might currently have the best “stuff” out of any pitcher in the organization. He’s extremely advanced for his age and, as crazy as it sounds, is pretty close to being major-league ready.

Will the Padres do the unthinkable and promote Gore to the big leagues at some point this season?

Probably not, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it did happen. San Diego started the season off hot, and despite their recent struggles, should be hovering around for a possible playoff start for the majority of the season. If the young players hit a hot streak and the team starts rolling, the Padres could find themselves fighting for a possible playoff birth come September or October. For a franchise that has not seen any post-season action since 2006, that would be an incredible achievement.

At that point in the season, the Padres’ executives would have to make a decision. They could easily acquire an arm or two in June or July and roll with that, but the promotions of Nick Margevicius and Pedro Avila proves that the Padres want to build from within. They are content with the young players that they have and would prefer to work internally as opposed to bringing someone in. If this is the case, a late-season promotion for Gore if the team is in contention should not be ruled out.

If Gore is promoted, he would certainly not operate as a starter. While his stuff will play, the Padres will act with caution, and likely use him as a “swing man” out of the bullpen. Regardless, Gore’s impact will still be felt as long as he is part of the pitching staff in one way or the other.

A lot of things have to go right for MacKenzie Gore to make his major league debut in 2019. In a much more likely scenario, Gore will finish the season in Amarillo and compete for a rotation spot in spring training of 2020. However, if the Padres are fighting for a playoff spot, don’t be surprised if MacKenzie Gore makes his major league debut in 2019.

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