SAN DIEGO -- MLB Pipeline unveiled its reworked top prospect rankings on Wednesday, with left-hander MacKenzie Gore's stock falling, as expected.
Maybe now it's time for the 22-year-old left-hander to begin his climb back up those rankings? Or, perhaps, straight to the big leagues?
Gore, who saw his overall prospect ranking plummet from No. 6 to No. 62 in MLB Pipeline's midseason re-rank, has endured a dreadful year. But after two months on the sideline while he reworked his mechanics and allowed his blister issues time to heal, Gore made an encouraging return to the mound on Thursday night.
Gore pitched 4 2/3 innings against the Royals’ squad at the Arizona Complex League, striking out eight and allowing a run on two hits and a walk. It is, of course, important to factor the level of competition into Gore's numbers. The Complex League is a Rookie level competition featuring mostly recent draftees.
But Padres officials came away from the outing cautiously optimistic. It was an unquestionably positive step for Gore, after the trials and tribulations of the past 12 months.
"The ball is coming out of his hand good," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said earlier this week. "He's very aware of the things he wants to accomplish. ... In terms of where he's at from a consistency standpoint, he's definitely in the right direction."
Many felt that Gore, a consensus Top 10 prospect in baseball last season, would be ripe for a 2020 debut. Instead, he struggled mightily at the team's alternate training site last season, particularly failing to hone his command.
Those struggles continued into the 2021 season, when Gore posted a 5.85 ERA across six starts with Triple-A El Paso. In mid-June, the Padres shut him down amid blister issues, then worked with him to readjust some of his mechanics at the team's complex in Arizona. The goal: to simplify his delivery.
Gore's stuff never has been in question. But his once-excellent control has mostly eluded him over the past year. He walked 5.4 hitters per nine innings at El Paso.
As for Gore's place in the Padres plans, team sources said not to read too deeply into one start against questionable competition. Gore, they said, would need to reel off further quality outings against better competition before working his way into the Padres’ starting pitching conversation.
"We all would be super excited if he's the guy to come up,” Preller said earlier in the week. “In the course of the next few games, I don't think that's going to happen. But between now and the end of the season -- he's got a lot of ability, he's got a lot of talent, he's working really hard at trying to put himself in a spot where he is the option for us.
"We'll continue to play it out here over the course of the next six weeks or so and see where he stacks up versus the other guys that are possibilities for us."
Lately, it's been blow after blow in the San Diego rotation, dating back to the July 30 Trade Deadline, when Preller chose not to add to his rotation. Chris Paddack and Yu Darvish landed on the injured list shortly thereafter. Ryan Weathers has pitched poorly in every start since. New pickup Jake Arrieta suffered a mild hamstring strain in his first Padres outing on Wednesday.
Now, perhaps some good news, at last.
Abrams, Hassell climb
With Gore falling, the top tier of Padres prospects got reshuffled a bit on Wednesday.
Shortstop CJ Abrams, who is out for the season with a fractured left tibia, moved into the organizational top spot, and he currently checks in at No. 6 overall.
Gore rounds out the four Padres ranked in the Top 100. The Nos. 5 and 6 spots on the team rankings are occupied by a pair of recent draftees -- outfielder James Wood at No. 5 and shortstop Jackson Merrill at No. 6.