The Nationals minor league spotlight of the week turns to recently acquired left-hander, MacKenzie Gore, who graduated from his prospect status in 2022.
Starting pitching was a struggle for the Nationals in 2022, as both injuries and minimal production riddled the staff. 23 year old starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore is expected to be a reason results turn around next season for Washington’s staff.
MacKenzie Gore was born in Whiteville, North Carolina and led his hometown high school to three state titles in four years. Gore committed to East Carolina University after dominating the high school ranks.
The lefty competed in the Perfect Game Classic in high school, a showcase game exposing the top draft prospects to major league scouts. Drafted third overall in 2017, Gore signed a contract just days after the San Diego Padres selected him. Below is video of a MacKenzie Gore at the Perfect Game classic at Petco Park.
Gore’s career got off to a great start, pitching to a 1.27 ERA in his first stint as a professional. He also averaged 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings, which is impressive for an 18 year old at the time. In 2018, Gore was assigned to the singleA Fort Wayne TinCaps. MacKenzie’s ERA rose to 4.45, but his strikeout per nine innings was still at 11.
Gore’s 2019 season made his prospect status sore to the top. Gore started 20 games and pitched to a 1.69 ERA, averaging 12 strikeouts per nine innings and just two and a half walks per nine innings. Gore’s WHIP was a .832, an absolutely insane number for a starting pitcher.
Following his dominance throughout the 2019 season, Gore was MLB’s sixth overall prospect and named MLB Pipeline’s highest rated starting pitcher. Then just like every minor league player had to deal, Gore lost the 2020 season due to Covid-19. Some players were impacted more than others due to the time off, and Gore was not a beneficiary in my opinion.
MacKenzie struggled to stay healthy in the 2021 season after returning from the year long hiatus. He started just 12 games the entire season, between four different teams. Gore was never healthy for an extended period of time, which did not allow him to get into a groove on the mound. Due to the injury-filled season Gore dropped in the prospect rankings to 86. Fans see this and panic, but the talent is still there for Gore.
The Padres selected Gore to their 40-man roster following the 2021 season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The Padres were very active in that particular offseason, trading for Sean Manaea to bolster their impressive starting rotation. Gore began the 2022 season in AAA El Paso, but after Blake Snell got hurt Gore got the call to the majors.
The rookie was absolutely dominant to begin his major league career. In the first two months of the season, Gore posted ERA’s of 1.76 and 1.69, with 47 strikeouts and 14 walks in that span. Those are statistics you see from front like starting pitchers, not first year players. In his final seven games of the year, he was not as impressive and then was placed on the injured list. Gore was dealing with mechanical issues which lead to his struggles, then ultimately being shut down after his July 25th start.
After being acquired by Washington, Gore made rehab starts for AAA Rochester but never made his debut in Washington. It is fully expected for Gore to be in the major league rotation to begin the 2023 season. The talent and tools are there for MacKenzie to be an ace, but availability is the best ability. Gore will need to prove he can withstand the rigors of a full 162 game season. Once he proves the ability to stay healthy, sky’s the limit for the soon to be 24 year old left-hander. Here are Gore’s early season highlights from last year to show some of that potential.