The Padres farm system may have its fair share of prosperity when it comes to left-handed pitching prospects, but MacKenzie Gore may outshine them all.
San Diego's No. 2 prospect twirled his second scoreless gem of 2019 as Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore bested Inland Empire, 9-1, at The Diamond on Thursday. Gore allowed two hits and a walk while fanning six over five frames on Lake Elsinore's Opening Night, extending his scoreless streak to 10 innings.
Gameday box score
The third overall pick in the 2017 Draft missed a large chunk of time in his first professional season in 2018 due to blister issues and the Padres ultimately decided to shut him down for the year last August. Gore (2-0) struck out 74 batters and walked 18 while posting a 4.45 ERA in 16 starts for Class A Fort Wayne despite the injuries.
After opening up the 2019 season last week with eight whiffs through five scoreless frames, baseball's No. 15 overall prospect was almost as sharp Thursday night. Gore hurled 84 pitches, 55 for strikes, and did not give up an extra-base hit for a second straight appearance. The 20-year-old walked Franklin Torres in the first inning and surrendered a single to Torii Hunter Jr. in the second before retiring 11 straight batters. Jordan Zimmerman ended the run with a single to right in the fifth, but Gore induced a forceout to emerge unscathed and end his night.
"It's another good start to build off of," Gore said. "I'm going out there and executing better than I was last year now that I'm healthy. That's probably the biggest difference between this year and last year's start is that I'm healthy."
Thursday's outing marked the fourth time the second-ranked left-handed prospect notched five or more scoreless innings in the Minors. Gore first accomplished the feat on July 4, 2018, when he tossed six scoreless frames for Fort Wayne against Great Lakes. He followed up nearly a month later on Aug. 2 without allowing a run through five against Dayton.
The southpaw's 60-grade fastball sat in the 93- to 95-mph range on a night in which he limited his off-speed offerings. As the Storm jumped to a five-run lead in the second -- later stretching it to 8-0 by the fourth -- Gore was able to attack.
"I was fastball-heavy," he said. "There was not a lot of off-speed. I got in a rhythm and kept going. I had a big 8-0 lead, so I could really go at people. [The offense] was awesome. Run support is huge and we did a good job on the defensive side with shutdown innings after we've had a long one."
Although just two games into the year, and a projected two years from the Major Leagues, the North Carolina native is aware of the excitement brewing around his potential in San Diego. The Padres have been ranked as the top farm system two consecutive seasons and only the A's Jesus Luzardo is ranked higher than Gore for left-handed pitchers. While he appreciates the hype, he knows he can't read too much into it.
2019 MiLB include
"The hype is good and you have to appreciate that the fans are excited," Gore said. "But I have to ignore the noise because if I get caught up in the hype, I'm not going to be as good as I can be or as good as I need to be.
"That's what the Minor Leagues are for. It's good to have this stuff now so that I know how to handle it when I get up to the big leagues. Everyone has all these expectations for you, but at the end of the day, whatever your expectations are is how good you're going to be."
Padres No. 16 prospect Tirso Ornelas went 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored while No. 18 Luis Campusano extended his hitting streak to eight games with two hits and a RBI. Jack Suwinski added three RBIs for the Storm.
Ryan Scott homered for the 66ers and Hunter Jr. went 2-for-4 to lead the 66ers.