Image credit: (Photo by Brady Vernon)
PEORIA, Ariz.—Most 21-year-olds are attempting to figure out their life plans as they grow close to entering the “real world.” MacKenzie Gore is just trying to live up to the expectations as Baseball America’s top-rated pitching prospect.
Gore, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound lefthander who turned 21 Monday, has made a good impression in his first spring training for the Padres. And that’s not just because of his abilities on the mound. It’s because of the way he has carried himself.
“He’s a young kid but he’s so talented and the sky’s the limit for him. He knows that,” Padres righthander Chris Paddack said. “But he’s a very humble kid. The way he goes about his business is very professional.
“The talent is there. Being a young kid like himself, he has it figured out.”
Paddack, 24, and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., 21, amake up a young core the Padres hope to build around with their second-best farm system, as rated by Baseball America, headlined by Gore. A youthful clubhouse has made the arrival to Arizona comforting for Gore.
“All the guys have (helped),” Gore said. “They’ve all been here before. They understand. It’s been great. (I’m) still trying to get settled in, but it’s been good.”
Despite Paddack being a rookie in 2019, he handed out reassurance to Gore about his place in the clubhouse.
“I basically told him, ‘Put your head down and go to work. You’re here for a reason, remember that, know that. Go out there and have fun,’” Paddack said. “It’s the same game. Sometimes the noise can get to you here in this clubhouse in front of cameras, in front of media, in front of a group of guys that you look up to. At the end of the day you’re one of us. I basically told him to remember that.”
His teammates aren’t the only ones impressed by Gore. San Diego fired manager Andy Green late last season, and then in October, hired former Rangers field coordinator Jayce Tingler to be the team’s next manager. Tingler has a lot on his plate, such as running his first spring training camp, but the job has been made easier for him due to the fact Gore has come as advertised.
“I’m super impressed with the way he’s blended into the clubhouse,” Tingler said. “The way he’s shown up. The way he goes about all areas of his program, long toss to band work. The effort and intensity he’s thrown in his bullpens and gets out there in his first live (batting practice).”
The tools are all there for Gore to be successful. Chosen by San Diego with the third pick in the 2017 draft, Gore has a full arsenal of pitches. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, and his curveball and slider are terrifying to hitters when effective.
Gore spent most of the 2019 season pitching for high Class A Lake Elsinore, where he went 7-1, 1.02 in 79.1 innings. He finished the season at Double-A Amarillo and went 2-1, 4.15 in 21.2 innings.
One challenge Gore has faced is a propensity to develop blister issues, but he is mindful of that situation.
“You have to stay on top of some things so they don’t come back,” Gore said. “It’s not a problem now, but it’s definitely something I have to make sure doesn’t happen again.”
Gore is more athletic than most pitchers. He uses that athleticism in his windup, which includes a leg kick that would make Dontrelle Willis proud. The Padres haven’t asked him to change it because it’s gotten him to this point, but Gore and the organization want to get more consistency out of it.
“There were some small adjustments,” Gore said. “We kind of went with what I had. It got me here, so we just want to sharpen that up, getting the delivery more consistent.”
The Padres have elevated many young players through their system the past few years, and Gore appears to be the next. All he wants out of this spring training experience is to get better.
“Working hard is something I’ve always done,” Gore said. “(I) need to work on things for the season. I’m in a good spot. I just want to get going in the right direction.”