Since the beginning of the year, Hunter Greene of Notre Dame High School in Los Angeles has garnered the respect of countless scouts.
With a high-octane fastball capable of reaching 100 mph, Greene is this draft year’s version of Riley Pint. However, it’s his smooth delivery and quality athleticism (traits rarely seen in power pitchers from high school), which makes him a likely top-3 pick. As such, the Padres have an opportunity to grab him at pick number three.
Rumors have even spread that Greene has stopped pitching in front of scouts due to his desire to stay in Southern California, and work within the Friars’ pitching program, one which matches his. Yet, the Padres should not take the young pitcher featured by Sports Illustrated as a once-in-a-generation prospect. Instead, another promising high school pitcher by the name of Mackenzie Gore should be on their radar.
To fully understand the reason behind why the Padres should select Gore over Greene, one must look at how each is doing at their respective schools. Greene has composed a .750 ERA with 43 Ks in 28 innings pitched. Obviously, these are stellar numbers for a high schooler even without accounting for the fact that Greene excelled at playing shortstop and hitting as well. He had to divide his focus between the responsibilities of a pitcher and those of a position player, which may have limited his impact on the mound. This is why scouts, who love him, also project him as a pitcher capable of delivering ace-level potential once he transitions to a pitcher-only prospect.
In comparison, Gore has been more elite on the mound during his time at Whiteville High in North Carolina. Even in his Junior season, Gore posted better results than Greene has now, with a ridiculous .080 ERA and 174 Ks in 83 1/3 innings pitched, a rate which outdoes Hunter’s. This year, more of the same has happened at Whiteville for the young lefty.
In terms of athleticism, Gore has that too, as evidenced by the fact that he was a standout offensively, like Greene, although Gore’s .465 batting average and six home runs, as noted by Baseball America on May 11, was not enough to make him an elite position player like Greene. His ability with the bat shows that there is room to grow tremendously if a focus on pitching only was forced. In short, the lefty has been more impressive than the cover guy for Sports Illustrated.
Another way to evaluate the talents of Greene and Gore, and favor the latter, is to look at their repertoires. Greene has a much better fastball, since he can throw his into the triple digits and sit comfortably above 95 MPH throughout a start. Gore has a well-above-average heater himself, and can command a 90-94 MPH fastball within the entirety of a game. Although Greene definitely holds the advantage in the good old #1, Gore makes up for it, and then some. The lefty has better secondaries, and thus more ways to get a batter out. The four pitches in his arsenal (fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup) are rated as above-average to scouts with his curveball ranked as plus pitch with its outstanding late break. This bodes well for his future, as he won’t have to rely primarily on one pitch like Greene does. Also, with such a dominant array of pitches, Gore has a higher floor and may rise through a system faster than his counterpart in this article.
As a disclaimer though, there is strong optimism that upon stepping away from his offensive responsibilities, Hunter Greene can improve his best pitch further and craft his off-speed pitches into above-average options on the mound. As a result, he has the ability to become one of the best starting pitchers in the majors. A Thor-like presence reminiscent of Noah Syndergaard. Yet, Mackenzie Gore resembles a pitcher far better than the current baseball Thor, Clayton Kershaw. Like Gore, Kershaw was also rated as the best prep lefty before the draft, also had a plus fastball as well as above-average secondaries and good command, and also had concerns revolving around their deliveries. If you were to look at the deceptive delivery that Gore possesses, you would see a delivery similar to the one Kershaw has with arms fully extended above the head, a high leg kick, and a brief stop with the front leg before releasing the ball. Even though it’s unlikely for anybody to replicate the success that the Dodgers’ ace has had, everything about the North Carolina preppy screams Kershaw, although a lesser version is highly realistic.
Lastly, A.J. Preller has a history of selecting mature prospects in the draft. This strategy must be taken into account for this year’s draft. We do not need more Matt Kemp’s, James Shields’, and even Derek Norris’, whose egos and lackadaisical attitudes hurt the clubhouse and the young players inside it. Hunter may look like the better bet to use his maturity as a tool-developing asset, since there’s well-documented stories of how he always tried to be by his sister’s bedside while she was going through cancer treatments. In addition, he has, for years, been very active in charities and always lauds his teammates for their successes. He is as humble as he felt when Sports Illustrated put him on their cover.
Meanwhile, Mackenzie Gore carries his own track record of being a humble, genuine person. While he has never gone through a tragic process like having a sibling with cancer, his small-town roots have given him great morals, which translate to being an excellent teammate. Everybody who encounters him discusses how humble and professional he is. He always supports his teammates and exhibits the values any good leader has. This season, his last at Whiteville, he was the only senior on the varsity baseball team and led his team well. He never put his stats above how the team performed. Each start was his to be competitive and not a means to juice up his stats. Lastly, both men were exceptional students as both achieved at least a 3.2 GPA, with Gore attaining a 4.19. Therefore, both men are solid picks and Greene’s past should not guarantee him a spot in the Padres’ organization, an organization craving mature players.
Overall, Mackenzie Gore should be taken instead of Hunter Greene at number three, because of several reasons. The lefty has better pitching records than Greene, even though his delivery is not as smooth. He has a more well-rounded stash of pitches, with each being above-average, thus has a higher floor. And lastly, his maturity rivals any other prospects in the draft and that is a sign that he will work hard at each level of the minors, and well into his career. Overall, the prep star is like Clayton Kershaw and how he performed prior to the 2006 MLB amateur draft. Thus, the question is… would you rather have a possible Clayton Kershaw or a possible Noah Syndergaard? The Padres should want the former and take Gore if they have a chance with the third overall pick.