5:45PM: The Padres have officially announced the moves, putting Snell on the 10-day IL (retroactive to April 11) with a left adductor strain.
12:33PM: The Padres are facing some early-season uncertainty in the starting rotation. Left-hander Blake Snell was scratched from what was supposed to be his first start on Sunday after experiencing adductor tightness. Snell hasn’t been placed on the injured list, but it’s expected he’ll need some time on the shelf to recover.
With Snell’s spot in the rotation up again tomorrow night against the Braves, it looks as if MacKenzie Gore will get his first big league look. AJ Cassavell of MLB.com tweeted Tuesday that Gore had joined the team’s taxi squad, and Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote last night the organization expects to soon place Snell on the IL and start Gore in his place.
Gore’s prospect stock has fluctuated considerably in recent seasons. The third overall pick in 2017, he carved up low minors hitters over his first two professional campaigns. In the process, Gore emerged as a potentially elite young talent. Heading into the 2020 season, each of Baseball America, FanGraphs and The Athletic slotted Gore as the sport’s top pitching prospect. All three outlets ranked him among the top six minor league talents overall.
Having reached Double-A late in 2019, Gore looked as if he could make his MLB debut at some point that season. The pandemic wound up necessitating a shorter schedule and a lack of minor league play, however, and Gore spent the year at the alternate training site. Reports emerged that he’d gotten out of whack mechanically, with Baseball America writing over the 2020-21 offseason there were concerns about both his control and a velocity dip.
Those red flags persisted last year, as Gore walked an alarming 12.5% of opponents against a dramatically reduced 18.8% strikeout rate in six Triple-A starts. The Padres reassigned him to their Arizona complex for some lower-pressure work to get back on track, and he returned to an affiliate late in the season with a pair of Double-A starts. He walked another eight batters in nine innings but also punched out 16.
There’s no question Gore’s inconsistent past couple seasons have dealt some kind of hit to his prospect stock. He’s no longer a consensus top ten minor leaguer, nor has he reached the majors as quickly as it had once seemed he would. Yet Gore only turned 23 years old in February and is only two years removed from being perhaps the best pitcher in the minors. He’s certainly still a legitimate prospect, one whom Keith Law of the Athletic slotted #59 overall this offseason.
Law wrote that each of Gore’s fastball, changeup and slider are still plus pitches and that he’s athletic enough to yet emerge as a top-of-the-rotation arm if he finds more mechanical consistency. BA slotted the southpaw fourth in the San Diego system this winter, praising his high-octane repertoire and noting that his “misses off the plate were much smaller” late last year than they’d been early in that season. Gore has only made one appearance so far this year, but he didn’t issue a single free pass in five scoreless innings with Triple-A El Paso last week, fanning seven of the 16 batters he faced.
Gore is already on the 40-man roster, so a Snell IL placement would be sufficient to accommodate his call-up. How long he’d remain in the rotation is to be seen, but Acee writes that both Snell and right-hander Mike Clevinger are expected to require two minor league rehab starts before returning to the majors. The team announced last night that Clevinger, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery and opened this year on the IL due to some soreness in his right knee, will make his first rehab start today with High-A Lake Elsinore.