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Gore leads list of top 10 LHP prospects

A's Puk checks in at No. 2, followed by Yanks' Sheffield
MLB.com

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2018 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Ranking season at MLB Pipeline began in earnest this week with the unveiling of our Top 10 right-handed pitching prospects for 2018. The list-dropping continues today with a look at the Top 10 left-handed hurlers, another immensely talented group, and it all leads up to the release of our Top 100 list, which goes live on Jan. 27, in conjunction with the MLB Network special at 8 p.m. ET (also streaming on MLB.com).

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2018 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Ranking season at MLB Pipeline began in earnest this week with the unveiling of our Top 10 right-handed pitching prospects for 2018. The list-dropping continues today with a look at the Top 10 left-handed hurlers, another immensely talented group, and it all leads up to the release of our Top 100 list, which goes live on Jan. 27, in conjunction with the MLB Network special at 8 p.m. ET (also streaming on MLB.com).

Sitting atop this year's LHP list is 19-year-old MacKenzie Gore, who turned in a stellar professional debut after the Padres drafted him third overall. He's one of four southpaws ages 20 or younger in a group that also features three newcomers as well as a pair of Braves big leaguers.

:: Complete 2018 Top Prospects coverage ::

1. MacKenzie Gore, Padres More »
2. A.J. Puk, Athletics More »
3. Justus Sheffield, Yankees More »
4. Luiz Gohara, Braves More »
5. Brendan McKay, Rays
6. Adrian Morejon, Padres More »
7. Kolby Allard, Braves More »
8. Jesus Luzardo, Athletics More »
9. Stephen Gonsalves, Twins More »
10. Max Fried, Braves More »

Top tools

Fastball: 70 -- Puk, Gohara
No one in this group boasts an 80-grade heater like righties Shohei Ohtani, Michael Kopech or Hunter Greene do, though Puk and Gohara both generate plenty of velocity. Gohara averaged 96.4 mph and bumped triple digits with his fastball in his five starts with Atlanta in 2017, per Statcast™, while Puk, the No. 6 overall pick in 2016 Draft, spent the season operating at 93-97 mph across two Minor League levels.

Video: Top Prospects: A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics

Curveball: 60 -- Gore, McKay, Fried
Fried's curveball continues to be regarded as one of the best in the Minors, and he missed bats at better than a 35-percent clip with the pitch over 26 innings with the Braves in 2017. Gore's curveball is a legitimate plus offering, registering in the mid-70s with late biting action, and McKay's grades as plus as well.

Video: Top Prospects: Max Fried, LHP, Braves

Slider: 65 -- Puk
Puk complements his impressive heater with a devastating slider in the mid- to upper-80s that nets him whiffs against right- and left-handed hitters alike. That pairing helped the big lefty pile up 184 strikeouts in just 125 innings in 2017, when he paced all qualified Minor League starters with 13.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings.

Changeup: 60 -- Allard, Luzardo, Gonsalves
Luzardo's changeup was said to be among the best in the 2015 Draft class before he underwent Tommy John surgery, and scouts who saw him over the summer raved about the pitch's speed differential and overall effectiveness. Both Allard and Gonsalves demonstrate advanced feel for their respective changeups, though neither pitches with anything more than a slightly above-average fastball.

Video: Top Prospects: Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves

Control: 60 -- Luzardo
In his first season removed from Tommy John surgery (also his professional debut), Luzardo showed a combination of stuff, pitchability and control en route to posting 48 strikeouts against five walks in 43 1/3 innings across two levels and three affiliates. Advanced control and command have been a key part of Luzardo's profile since high school and should enable him to move relatively quickly through the Minors.

Video: Top Prospects: Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics

Highest ceiling/floor

Ceiling: Gore
Gore was the top prospect on the Padres' Draft board, and he confirmed their assessment by posting a 1.27 ERA and a .184 opponents' average with 34 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings during his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League. The sky is the limit for the young lefty, who features four above-average-or-better offerings, advanced feel for his craft and an athletic, high-leg-kick delivery that gives hitters fits.

Floor: Gonsalves
Gonsalves has made a steady climb through Minnesota's system and enters 2018 on the cusp of the Major Leagues. The 23-year-old's stuff is far from overpowering -- his changeup is his lone plus offering -- but he does have feel for effectively changing speeds and reading hitters' swings. Those qualities, along with the improved command he showed in 2017, has led scouts to safely project Gonsalves as a back-end starter.

Video: Top Prospects: Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Twins

Rookie of the Year candidate: Gohara
Gohara gets the edge here because he's a strong candidate to crack Atlanta's Opening Day rotation. The 21-year-old southpaw received his first taste of the Majors in 2017, when he posted a 4.91 ERA with 31 strikeouts and eight walks over 29 1/3 innings as a September callup. Fellow Braves lefty Fried also gained big league experience last season (3.81 ERA in 26 IP), while Puk, Sheffield and Gonsalves all have upper-level experience under their belts.

Video: Top Prospects: Luiz Gohara, LHP, Braves

Highest riser: Luzardo
A third-round pick of the Nationals in 2016, Luzardo had yet to throw a professional pitch at this time last year as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery in March. The 20-year-old dominated when he finally took the mound in 2017, showing pre-surgery velocity and feel, and then continued to do so after going from the Nationals to the A's at the Trade Deadline.

Humblest beginnings: Gonsalves
Six players on this list are former first-round Draft picks. A fourth-round pick in 2013 out of the prep ranks, Gonsalves had found success at each level with his blend of pitchability and command before advancing to Triple-A and struggling late last season. Luzardo was the next lowest pick as a 2016 third-rounder, though he ultimately signed with the Nationals for $1.4 million, more than twice his slot's value.

Most to prove: Allard
Allard had a successful 2017 season by all standards as he posted a 3.18 ERA while totaling 150 innings (27 starts) Double-A innings at age 19 (he turned 20 in mid-August). From a scouting standpoint, however, Allard's fastball velocity backed up into the 88-93 mph range and he threw the pitch too frequently. His strikeout rate dipped as a result, regressing to 7.7 K/9 from 9.8 the previous year, though he did maintain a healthy walk rate (2.7 BB/9).

Keep an eye on: Jay Groome, Red Sox
MLB Pipeline's top-rated prospect in the 2016 Draft, Groome slipped to the Red Sox at No. 12 because of questions about his signability and off-field issues. He made three starts during his pro debut after signing for $3.65 million, a franchise record for a drafted pitcher, but was limited to 55 1/3 innings in 2017 due to a lat strain and forearm soreness. Despite setbacks to begin his career, Groome has all the ingredients to develop into a front-line starter.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.