MacKenzie Gore is one of the 10 or so high school players who could go in the first round, and he’s at least the next best high school pitcher after potential No. 1 pick Hunter Greene. Gore put up unreal numbers in 2017 — including a 0.19 ERA*, more than two strikeouts per inning, and a fastball that topped out around 94 mph. This season, he was able to average 92-94 mph throughout his starts, hitting up to 96 at times. He committed to play next year at East Carolina University where he says he’ll still go “if he doesn’t get drafted.” Okay, sure.
* Editor’s note: High school stats are an inexact science. Here is a more complete rundown of his season and career numbers, but note that even within this source the ERA is miscalculated. The point is his ERA starts with a zero.
MacKenzie Gore, LHP
Whiteville High School, N.C.
DOB: 02-24-1999 / Height: 6’2” / Weight: 180
Bats: L Throws: L
MLB Scouting Grades:
Fastball: 65 / Curveball: 60 / Slider: 55 / Changeup: 55 / Control: 55 / Overall: 55
It’s not a matter of if Gore will get drafted high in the first round, it’s just a matter of where. Most sites have Hunter Greene going as the No. 1, 2, or 3 pick, and Gore falling in the 4-6 range. Jim Callis of MLB has him as high as third. He went fifth in Minor League Ball’s recent mock draft, and ESPN’s Keith Law has him taken sixth at the latest. Hero Sports is the outlier, with Gore going 11th.
Baseball America says that he fits the typical “first-round lefty archetype,” comparing him most directly to Cole Hamels with a hint of Scott Kazmir. Both pitchers were of a similar stature in high school and were/are successful at the Major League level while averaging 91 on their fastballs, a maintainable mark for the youngster.
Baseball America’s comparisons give you an idea of this guy’s upside. Gore has grown two inches in the past year, and might still have a couple to go which wouldn’t hurt. His crazy-high leg kick (it almost touches his left shoulder!) is said to be reminiscent of a left-handed Zack Greinke, also not a bad comparison to have at 18 years old. Here’s a look:
Over at the East Village Times, Eric Voas thinks that Gore’s arsenal of above-average pitches actually should put him ahead of Greene, who really just has his fastball. That arsenal should help him rise quickly through the minors, as his floor is already higher than most.
Not that it’s pertinent in AL play, but it’s worth noting that Gore is a stellar two-way player à la high school Sonny Gray. He batted .465 this year and once hit two homers in an inning:
Gore was named Gatorade National Player of the Year, and has pitched in multiple state championships amongst other big games. He has also been praised as being exceptionally mature compared to his cohort, which bodes well for a team in need of young leaders.
In this day and age, Gore will almost inevitably deal with injury at some point in his career because he is still so young and is yet have any major setbacks.
Though he has decent command over all his pitches, a couple of them are really just projections of what’s to come rather than concrete evidence. For example, he misses high and to the left with his breaking ball just about as often as he throws a good one. You’d think something like this would be a non-issue in time, but you never know.
So, the two concerns you’d expect from a high school pitcher: the unpredictability of future health, and the need to continue refining his raw talent.
If the A’s are graced with Gore’s presence come the time, I think they’d be foolish not to snap him up. Knowing what we do about the ebbs and flows of starting rotations, it sure would be nice to know that there’s a potential Cole Hamels or better brewing in the minors. Additionally, if the A’s are trailblazing the youth movement for the next few years, a mature guy with proven leadership ability would certainly be helpful.