MacKenzie Gore, one of five prospects acquired from San Diego in the deal which sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres at the trade deadline earlier this week, is a 23-year-old left-hander who, “... was San Diego’s No. 4 prospect entering the 2022 season, according to both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com,” and was ranked as, “... the No. 86 prospect in all of baseball according to MLBPipeline.com.”
“He rose to the consensus top prospect in San Diego’s system in 2020 and 2021,” the Nats noted in a press release on their deal, which netted six players total in return for Soto and Bell, “... and entering the 2021 season, [Gore] was rated by MLBPipeline.com as the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball and by Baseball America as No. 10.”
Gore was a 2017 1st Round pick by the Padres, taken 3rd overall, and as Washington’s GM Mike Rizzo said once the deal was officially announced on Tuesday, he’s a left-hander who when healthy will slot in atop the Nationals’ future rotation alongside some of the other big arms in the organization right now.
MacKenzie Gore, 9th and 10th Ks. pic.twitter.com/vwrvBzotoI— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 4, 2022
“MacKenzie Gore is a guy that has been a famous guy, a name for years,” Rizzo explained, “... finally put it all together at the age of 23, and he’s got big stuff, a big arm from the left side, and came out of the chute very, very strong, and kind of faded out because he’s pitched from limited innings for his whole professional career, so we’re going to go easy with him when he gets here and really kind of take him slow and step-by-step.”
In his first eight outings this season (seven starts), Gore, who made his MLB debut on April 15th, put up a 1.71 ERA, a 2.33 FIP, 14 walks, 47 Ks, and a .208/.283/.255 line against in 42 IP, but he was up and down over the last two months, (8.68 ERA, 6.80 FIP, 23 walks, 25 Ks, and rough .299/.420/.530 line against in eight games, six starts, and a total of 28 IP) before the southpaw went on the IL with inflammation in his left elbow.
“Like I said, he’s had limited innings his whole career,” Rizzo reiterated when asked about any concerns about the injury. “He had a big workload early on this season that he’s never had before. The injury did make things a little bit more complicated, a little bit more work, we had to do a lot of due-diligence medically.
“But there was nothing hidden and the reports and the MRIs were viewed, and the doctor gave us the thumbs up to compete the trade.
“We were happy to get him. We really see an upside, left-handed starting pitcher in the big leagues for years to come that we control for a long time.”
“MacKenzie Gore,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, “has a chance to be a front-line starting pitcher to put in the mix with [Josiah] Gray and [Cade] Cavalli and [Cole] Henry, and that group of young arms, and once he gets over this little arm injury, then he should be able to come to the big leagues.”
He told the Junkies too that he wasn’t too concerned about Gore’s elbow.
“People who actually went to medical school have had no concerns with it, so we trust our medical staff,” he said.
Gore joined the club in Philadelphia on Thursday, and talked to reporters in Citizens Bank Park as he got settled in with his new team. Of course he was asked about his left elbow.
“It was just some discomfort, and then … it’s minor,” he said. “So yeah, everything’s fine. Just kind of building strength back and getting everything 100% and should be fine.”
MacKenzie Gore, Painted 87mph Changeup. ️ pic.twitter.com/ukVTlKCgYS— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 4, 2022
He hasn’t pitched since July 25th at this point, and the Nationals, as Rizzo said, plan to take things slowly with him.
“Feeling better,” he said on Thursday. “Definitely getting better, so...”
His strong start to his rookie season, Gore said, was a result of a good fastball and throwing strikes.
“Obviously the fastball was good,” he said of the 94.7 MPH (average) pitch which he’s thrown 60.9% of the time this season (.232 BAA),” but we had a little bit of everything.”
Gore mixed in a curveball (18.0%; .250 BAA), slider (15.7%; .286 BAA), and a changeup (5.3%; .333 BAA).
“We were attacking guys, a lot of strikes, also getting deep into games too, so really that’s it,” he said of the keys when he’s going well.
“When we’re going at guys and able to get deep into games, that’s kind of when I’m at my best.”
“He’s going to help us in the future and he’s a big part of our future as well,” Nats’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters before the opener with the Phillies.
MacKenzie Gore's 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th Ks. pic.twitter.com/rOIh4BtPOQ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 29, 2022
“Right now, the biggest thing that we talked about is getting him healthy, you know, getting him right,” the fifth-year skipper continued. “We feel like he can help us for a very, very long time. But we’re gonna take it slow with him and make sure that when he comes back, he’s back for good. And we have no other issues. So he understands that. Told him just, ‘Hey, learn the lay of the land, start talking to people. I don’t know — he didn’t meet [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey when I saw him, but go talk to Hickey. Talk to some analytical guys, tell us what you’re used to having, we want to get you comfortable, want to get you used to what we try to do, and spend this time learning if our system is different than yours, kind of learning it, and honestly I want to know what you’ve done, maybe we could learn something from you as well, and he was good. He had a lot to do today cause he went through some evaluation periods with the training staff, so he was busy.”
Gore said it was emotional moving on from the only organization he’s known as a pro, but he also told reporters he was excited to be with a club which considers him, as Rizzo told the Junkies, a big part of the future in D.C.
“Definitely exciting. It just means we have a job to do, and we got to go out there and play well,” Gore said.
“We all do. But that’s also it, which is a good thing, we have a job and continue to get better every day and go out there and play well.”