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Inbox: When will Gore debut in Majors?

Beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers questions from San Diego fans
@AJCassavell
May 13, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres’ rotation is filled with young starters who moved quickly through the Minor Leagues. Naturally, it’s fair to wonder who’s next. This week’s Padres Inbox focuses on another pitching prospect who could arrive in the Majors ahead of schedule. Plus, it takes a look at the

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres’ rotation is filled with young starters who moved quickly through the Minor Leagues. Naturally, it’s fair to wonder who’s next.

This week’s Padres Inbox focuses on another pitching prospect who could arrive in the Majors ahead of schedule. Plus, it takes a look at the evolving infield situation and how it might fit together when Fernando Tatis Jr. returns.

Where should we set the over/under for MacKenzie Gore's debut?
-- James, Santee, Calif.

If we know one thing about the Padres and their pitching prospects, it's this: They move 'em quickly. Assuming MacKenzie Gore stays healthy, I'd set the over/under -- well, technically before/after -- at May 2020. And I’d pick before.

Gore, soon to be the team's No. 1 prospect when Fernando Tatis Jr. graduates from the rankings, is off to an incredible start to his season at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. The 20-year-old left-hander has allowed five runs in seven starts and has struck out 52 hitters over 37 innings.

There's precedent for a big-name Padres prospect to dominate at Lake Elsinore, then move quickly. Chris Paddack was posting similarly absurd numbers there at this time last season. Now he's the Padres' ace.

It's easy to see a similar path for Gore. He will be invited to big league camp next spring. From there, the Padres have proven they're going to take their five best pitchers -- with no consideration for outside factors like experience or service time. Gore might have a tougher path than Paddack because he'll have better, more experienced arms to compete with. But it's not far-fetched to think he'd be one of their five best options.

Any chance Gore is brought up later this year if he goes to Double-A Amarillo and has success?
-- John M., Vista, Calif.

The Padres move 'em quickly. But a Gore 2019 debut is almost certainly too quick -- even for general manager A.J. Preller.

Gore is headed for Amarillo soon if his recent run of success continues. But he threw only 60 2/3 innings last year, and it's a safer bet that the Padres shut him down late in the year.

If they don't, there are other obstacles for Gore. He's not on the roster, and he doesn't need to be added this offseason. A whole bunch of really good prospects do. Adding Gore for one or two September starts might cost the Padres a valuable piece in November’s inevitable roster crunch.

If Gore remains untouchable in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues, he'll set himself up nicely for a run at the 2020 rotation. But that's probably the best he can ask for from his ‘19 season.

Is there a key reason why Luis Urias has yet to be recalled? What improvements are the Padres looking for out of him?
-- David, San Diego

When the Padres optioned Luis Urías to Triple-A El Paso in mid-April, they made it clear they wouldn't get too wrapped up in his numbers there. Urias' timing was off, they said. It was off in Spring Training, and it was off in early April. There were subtle pieces of Urias' swing and/or plate approach that needed to change in order for him to have success in the big leagues.

The team is clearly sticking to that plan, because Urias' results have been out of this world. Yet the Padres' No. 3 prospect remains at El Paso, despite poor production at second base in the big leagues. Urias went deep twice on Saturday, and he owns a .355/.434/.817 slash line -- albeit in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

It's possible Urias has already made the necessary fixes. (His numbers indicate as much, but it's hard to tell when we don't know what we're looking for.) Still, the organization wants to be certain that Urias is ready for big league pitching. If he gets promoted again, then struggles again, it'll be the third time that's happened. The next time Urias is called up, the Padres want to be certain it's for good.

What happens to Ty France when Tatis comes back?
-- Jack

That's up to Ty France. The 24-year-old third baseman will continue to receive regular reps before Tatis returns and pushes Manny Machado back to third. The more France impresses in that time, the more likely it is he'll stick around in a prominent role.

It's still unclear how serious the Padres are about getting France everyday time at second base. He's played third for nearly his entire pro career, and he only began working at second base in early April. Still, if France forces his way into the starting lineup with his bat, that’s probably where he’ll play.

When Tatis returns, the immediate landing spot for France is probably as a pinch-hitting weapon. His inexperience at second base gives the Padres hesitation to throw him into the fire. But if France hits, he’ll earn himself an occasional start, presumably when San Diego knows its starting pitcher isn't all that ground-ball heavy.

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