“Out with the old, in with the new.” It’s an adage that’s tried and true and, frankly, quite worn out. Clichés don’t become clichés without being rooted in some truth. While often it’s a frightening thing to do away with what has worked for a period of time in favor of a new and unknown way of approaching things, when it says dividends, the profit margin can be massive. This applies to all parts of life, sports included.
For lefty MacKenzie Gore, the old was working just fine. He looked like a solid selection with a decent floor who be picked before the third round was finished. However, the new — whatever that may be — has brought far better results than anyone could have imagined.
Now, he is projected as one of the top selections in this year’s MLB draft. He has not only vaulted himself into the first round — we initially thought he would be around at No. 18 overall — but he has enough helium to land within the top few picks, well before the Detroit Tigers will have a chance to call his name on draft day.
If there’s a quality desirable in a pitcher that Gore doesn’t have, I am not well-versed enough in prospect evaluation to think of it. His best pitch is his beauty of a fastball. While his fastball sat around 89-92 miles per hour last season, he has cranked it up quite a bit; he now is able to touch the high-90s and sits about 92-95 mph. He is also able to keep this new velocity deep into starts. It is not only a weapon because of it’s well-above-average velocity from the left side, but also because of its late downward movement.
He backs up the nearly double-plus fastball with a bevy of off-speed offerings, starting with the curveball. The pitch has an incredible amount of movement on it, and it elicits a lot of swings and misses. He has improved this pitch from last summer as well, trading the 45-grade edition in for a version that is an easy plus. It likely will be his out pitch as a professional, as it is the best of his slower stuff.
Most of the video of Gore that is recent enough to have been taken after this transformation is taken from the backside, and it is therefore a bit difficult to find a good shot of any of his breaking pitches and softer stuff. In this gif, though, you can see the ball drop last-second. The catcher is forced to move his glove sharply downwards, and it induces a foolish looking swing from the opposing batter.
While the curve is the best of his slower pitches, Gore also mixes in a slider. It doesn’t have quite as much sharp movement as the curveball, but still projects as an average or better pitch at peak.
There aren’t many weaknesses in Gore’s game, save for the inherent risk involved with high school pitchers. Gore’s recent uptick in velocity can be viewed as a concern as well, as many high schoolers have been known to sell out for velocity in order to boost their draft stock. While this hasn’t necessarily affected Gore’s numbers...
For his career, Gore went 41-2 with a 0.35 ERA in four seasons. 315.1 IP, 124 H, 48 BB, 556 K.— Nathan Rode (@NathanRode) June 5, 2017
...he would still be considered a high risk prospect because of his age, velocity, and delivery.
Speaking of that delivery, it could get Gore into trouble later on. Perfect Game’s David Rawnsley (h/t Minor League Ball) noted that Gore’s delivery “may not age well” as he loses flexibility with age. However, that does not seem to be the industry consensus. MLB Pipeline, which has Gore ranked as their No. 4 draft prospect, doesn’t seem so concerned.
Scouts love Gore's athleticism and competitiveness. He employs a big leg kick and gets good extension in his delivery, creating a deceptive look that can throw hitters off.
Gore’s secondary pitches — namely the slider and changeup — are also a concern given Gore’s inexperience, but not to the point that teams all over baseball aren’t salivating over him right now. With professional instruction, he should be able to cobble together a usable three-pitch mix (if not add in a fourth).
We initially thought Gore would be around when the Tigers were on the clock at No. 18 overall, but the promising lefthander has been so dominant that he will almost surely be a top five pick on draft day. While this doesn’t make his profile entirely relevant on a Tigers site, we already had most of it written up, save for these minor tweaks about his incredible rise up draft boards. ESPN’s Keith Law thinks the talented lefty could go as high as No. 3 overall to the San Diego Padres, and few expect him to drop past the Atlanta Braves at No. 5.