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For top prospect Gore, 2020 could be huge

@AJCassavell
January 13, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres haven't overhauled their rotation this offseason, as many expected they would. But they might still have an ace up their sleeve. Top prospect MacKenzie Gore, ranked No. 4 overall by MLB Pipeline, should arrive in 2020. The Padres have never been shy about promoting their

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres haven't overhauled their rotation this offseason, as many expected they would.

But they might still have an ace up their sleeve.

Top prospect MacKenzie Gore, ranked No. 4 overall by MLB Pipeline, should arrive in 2020. The Padres have never been shy about promoting their top prospects quickly, and Gore is expected to earn a big league Spring Training invite at some point this month. The 20-year-old left-hander will be given a chance to win a starting job, with two or three spots currently available at the back end of the San Diego rotation.

Even if Gore doesn't make the team, it won't be long before he makes an impact. On paper, the Padres' rotation could probably use another front-line arm. But internally, there's a belief that it wouldn't be wise to overspend on a starter when MLB Pipeline's top-ranked pitching prospect is waiting in the wings. That money, sources believe, might be allocated better for help on offense and in the bullpen.

Last week, Gore took part in Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development Program, and he spoke with MLB.com about the program itself and his recent experiences in the Minors.

"It's awesome," Gore said of the program. "You get to see all the guys you're going to see a lot of in the next few years, and you get to be around them. I'm just going to enjoy it and see what I can learn."

Gore posted a 1.69 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 101 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A last season. He was named as MLB Pipeline's pitcher of the year in September, and he was asked to reflect on his trip to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Cleveland last summer.

"It was a lot of fun,” he said. "I met a lot of new guys and was there with some teammates, which was pretty cool. And just being out there in a big league stadium -- it was pretty awesome."

It might not be long until Gore finds himself back on a big league mound. The Padres have only made one change to their rotation this winter -- landing righty Zach Davies from Milwaukee, while giving up lefty Eric Lauer in the same deal.

That leaves plenty of opportunity available at the back end of the rotation, and general manager A.J. Preller has given every indication that Gore and fellow top prospect Luis Patiño will get a chance. But Preller has also made it explicitly clear that the two must earn their place on the big league club.

"They're talented, and we know they have real ability, front-of-the-rotation-type ability," Preller said at the Winter Meetings last month. "They're going to have to show us when they're ready. I think the nice thing about both of those pitchers, with Luis and with MacKenzie, they're competitors and hard workers. ... We'll have them in the back of our mind. But they'll have to force their way onto the big league club."

If Gore's impeccable Minors performance translates against Major League competition this spring, he'll force his way onto the Padres’ roster sooner rather than later.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.