Fantasy baseball pitching prospects – How to value MacKenzie Gore ahead of his debut and more

If it feels like we in the fantasy baseball world have been recommending San Diego Padres LHP MacKenzie Gore for a whole lotta years, it is because we have. Gore was the top pitching prospect in the sport in 2019 and he was already pitching well that season in Double-A ball, at the tender age of 20. He looked ready and the Padres looked like they had a rotation need. We thought for sure Gore would debut during the shortened 2020 season, but alas, nope. Then Gore struggled to repeat his delivery of him in 2021, started walking hitters and he hardly deserved to debut.

Gore seems likely to pitch in the majors Friday night versus Atlanta, veteran ace Blake Snell is IL-bound with an adductor strain. While there are no guarantees about how Gore will perform, everything seems positive and back to normal with the young phenom. Normal is really good. He struck out 16 hitters over 12 Spring Training innings, walking three. Gore made one start last week for the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas, whiffing seven Round Rock Express members in five near-perfect innings. Oh, he repeated his delivery of him quite nicely, his fastball still reaches the upper-90s, his changeup and slider are plus pitches and he is ready. Remove ready.

Fantasy managers, especially in deeper formats, should add Gore to their teams in advance of this outing, in case it goes really well, but not necessarily activate him. I wouldn’t. I want to see him pitch, cannot wait to see him pitch. We do not know when Snell will be healthy enough to pitch again and, frankly, it is irrelevant. If Gore pitches well, and does so again next week, likely midweek versus Cincinnati, he will stick around. I am optimistic here. Skills matter over role and if a player thrives, the role tends to work itself out. If Gore struggles, then the Padres can easily justify sending him back for more Triple-A work. After all, he has only 25 innings at that level.

The Padres should be all-in for winning this season, and our first indication of this came recently when top prospect CJ Abrams got the promotion to handle shortstop duties, skipping Triple-A. Abrams has looked a bit overmatched so far, especially by fastballs. His speed from him is quite evident and he should steal myriad bases if given opportunity, but if he cannot hit baseballs hard – his hard-hit percentage at Double-A San Antonio did not inspire confidence – then we may be overrating him. Of course I want to see more before giving up, and it should be at least another six weeks before Fernando Tatis Jr. returns to active duty.

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