The 2017 season for the San Diego Padres was not good on the field, although it was nowhere near as bad as some in the media feared it would be. Youngsters Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, and Dinelson Lamet provided performances worth remembering. But let’s be honest, 71-91 and 33 games behind the Dodgers flat-out sucks.
If things are going to change, the youngsters that provided the season highlights will need to be joined by more talented youngsters, sooner rather than later. However, the huge depth of talent in the Padres’ system won’t be major league ready sooner rather than later.
One player, despite his age, that can move through the minors quickly is Mackenzie Gore. The left-handed pitcher was drafted 3rd overall, somewhat surprisingly ahead of two-way stud Brendan McKay and pitcher Kyle Wright, the latest model off the Vanderbilt pitching assembly line. Gore does have the high ceiling typical of a Padres’ prospect, so in that way it’s not actually too surprising that he’s a Padre.
Baseball America ranked Gore as the top Arizona League prospect, and manager Shaun Cole was quoted, on the free side of the BA pay wall, saying Gore is “so far advanced than most of the high school guys and even the college guys.”
The standard caveats that apply to any prospect, especially pitchers, apply to Gore, but he’s one of those rare players with a high ceiling and a relatively high floor as well. He’s an athletic guy and doesn’t have to throw in the upper 90’s, both things in theory could reduce his risk of elbow or shoulder injuries that often plague pitchers. He throws four pitches and has that funky leg kick that most hitters won’t be used to facing. It’s an impressive profile and he’s exactly the player the Padres need.
As “one of the best pitching prospects in the AZL’s 30 year history”, Gore has put himself into a different category than the other stud pitchers in the Padres’ farm. He isn’t just a potential middle of the rotation contributor, he’s a potential ace.
While there are many positives to take from the 2017 Padres’ season, certainly more than some naysayers would have expected, this season was still one to forget.
For Padre fans to finally have something to cheer about again, more moments like Renfroe’s emphatic return from the minors, Margot’s audacious Opening Day power display, and Lamet’s strikeout laden breakout, are needed. San Diego needs an ace that can be relied upon, not just for moments at a time, but for the whole season. In Mackenzie Gore, the Padres just might have their guy, and drafting him could turn out to be the best moment in a largely forgettable year.
He’s got a long way to go, but he’s started out his professional career impressively. His dominance in Arizona was impressive. There is no drama to a draft pick immediately, no edge of your seat “wow” factor that comes with a position player hitting a home run, but when we look back on 2017 the thing we’ll note is this was the year the Padres truly got an ace.