AZL Cubs 2
AZL Giants 1
AZL Dodgers, 37-19 (.661)
SEE ALSO: Arizona/Pioneer Top 20 Chat
To qualify for a Minor League Top 20 Prospects list, a position player must have one plate appearance per team game, a starting pitcher must have one-third of an inning per team game and a reliever must have 20 relief appearances.
This year's crop of prospects was perhaps the deepest in the 30-year history of the Rookie-level Arizona League, rivaling the rich group from the 2012 season. The quality and quantity was aided in part by a new high in the number of teams in the league, with the Padres adding a second AZL squad to bring the total to 15.
Nine 2017 first-round picks made their pro debuts in the AZL, with all but White Sox third baseman Jake Burger getting enough playing time to rank in the top 20. The other eight first rounders—MacKenzie Gore (Padres), Austin Beck (Athletics), Keston Hiura (Brewers), Jordon Adell (Angels), Nick Pratto (Royals), Heliot Ramos (Giants), Bubba Thompson (Rangers), Chris Seise (Rangers)—all rank among the league's best prospects.
Gore, a North Carolina high school product selected by San Diego with the third overall pick, was cited by veteran league observers as one of best pitching prospects in league history. The 18-year-old southpaw was an easy choice as the top prospect, followed closely by outfielders Adell and Ramos.
1. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres |
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Wt: 6-3. Wt: 180. Drafted: HS—Whiteville, N.C., 2017 (1).
Gore started his career with a significant amount of hype after being selected third overall by the Padres and winning the BA High School Player of the Year. The North Carolina native lived up to the accolades with an outstanding pro debut, earning raves as one of the best pitching prospects in the AZL's 30-year history.
Gore dominated AZL hitters, holding batters to a .184 average and striking out 34 in just over 21 innings. The 18-year-old southpaw showed a solid four-pitch mix and extreme athleticism which allows him to repeat what could be a high-maintenance delivery with his high leg kick. Gore has plus command of all of his pitches, notably a sneaky fastball that sits 92-96 mph with good plane. Both the cut-like slider and curveball project as plus pitches, and he has good feel for a changeup that tumbles on batters and causes them to swing through it.
"I’ll be surprised if he spends a long time in the minor leagues," manager Shaun Cole said. "He’s so far advanced than most of the high school guys and even the college guys. He’s a good one."