Why The Padres Chose Ryan Weathers For Their NLDS Roster Over MacKenzie Gore
After much speculation, the Padres did put a top lefthanded pitching prospect who was a top-10 draft pick on their National League Division Series roster.
It just wasn’t the one many expected.
On the surface, the decision seems curious. Gore is the higher-ranked prospect and reached Double-A last season. Weathers has yet to pitch above low Class A.
But in the context of what the Padres need and the pitchers’ performances this summer, the decision makes sense.
Gore was more solid than dominant during summer camp while Weathers turned heads. Weathers continued sitting 94-97 mph at the alternate site camp while Gore worked through some delivery issues that affected his command and velocity.
As the summer progressed, the Padres primarily kept Gore in a starting role while exposing Weathers to a variety of roles. Ultimately, that experience tilted the decision in Weathers’ favor.
“They’ve both thrown the ball well,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller said prior to Game 1. “I think with Weathers, it’s a little bit more of he’d been in some different roles here over the course of the last couple months for us. I think being able to use some versatility and giving (manager) Jayce (Tingler) and (pitching coach) Larry (Rothschild) the flexibility to do some different things, I think ultimately that won out a little bit.”
Generally, Weathers’ present arsenal is better suited for relief than Gore’s. Both are starters long term, but for purposes on this year’s NLDS, they both would have pitched in relief.
Weathers, with his velocity uptick, throws harder, with a 94-97 mph fastball a tick ahead of Gore’s 92-96 mph range. Weathers’ slider ticked up to become a consistent swing-and-miss pitch this summer as well, while Gore’s slider and curveball alternate as his better pitch depending on the day.
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With a harder fastball and a more consistent slider, Weathers’ present mix fits more in relief than Gore’s. Gore's edges as a prospect come from his broader pitch mix and elite athleticism, which help give him a potentially higher ceiling as a starter long term, but don't necessarily make him the better option to impact the team right now.
“We’ve talked about MacKenzie consistently as a starting pitching option,” Preller said. “I think we’re open to anything right now, but they’ve both thrown the ball well. When you’re dealing with talented young players it’s not an easy decision, but ultimately some of the different roles that we’re looking at, maybe a longer role out of the bullpen, ultimately we felt like Ryan was throwing the ball really well and from a fit standpoint, we liked where there was at now.”
Gore is still part of the Padres’ expanded 40-man postseason roster. Preller took care to note that if the Padres advance, he and everyone else on the expanded roster remain an option to be added at a later date.
For now, Weathers’ present arsenal and experience pitching in different situations put him in a better position to help the Padres, which is why he’s the one on the NLDS roster.
“He’s got versatility to what he’s done,” Preller said. “We’ve challenged him in that way. He’s pitched in some different roles and we’ll see how it plays out, and obviously (it’s) just giving a quality arm to Jayce and seeing how he wants to use him.”