The Fort Wayne TinCaps are stacked with young talent again this year, with one of baseball’s top pitching prospects headlining the notable San Diego Padres farmhands assigned to the Opening Day roster.
MacKenzie Gore — considered one of the game’s top left-handed pitching prospects (ranked No. 1 at the position by MLB Pipeline and No. 2 by Baseball America behind Atlanta Braves rookie and former Clinton LumberKings pitcher Luiz Gohara) — will start his first full season as a pro in the Midwest League after making only seven starts in rookie ball last year. The No. 3 overall draft pick last summer, the 19-year-old Gore has ace potential and is expected to move fast through the Padres farm system. Baseball America — which ranks Gore second among Padres prospects, behind last year’s TinCaps star Fernando Tatis Jr. — compares him to Cole Hamels at the same age and notes that “with four pitches, command and deception, many evaluators who saw Gore in his pro debut called him one of the best pitching prospects in the 30-year history of the Rookie-level Arizona League.”
It is no exaggeration to say Gore dominated batters in high school. MLB Pipeline notes: “Gore posted gaudy numbers as a Whiteville (N.C.) HS junior, going 12-1 with a 0.08 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings, and then did the same thing as a senior, when he went 11-0 with a 0.19 ERA and a 158-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 74 1/3 innings en route to being named the 2017 Gatorade National Player of the Year.” Gore looks to continue his dominance against batters who, for the most part, will be older than him. The Padres are confident he will do that.
Other top-30 ranked Padres prospects on the TinCaps roster include infielders Gabriel Arias (ranked No. 11 by MLB Pipeline, No. 10 by Baseball America) and Esteury Ruiz (No. 12 by MLBP, No. 15 by BA), outfielders Tirso Ornelas (No. 15 by MLBP) and Jeisson Rosario (No. 19 by MLBP, No. 22 by BA), catcher Luis Campusano (No. 24 by MLBP, No. 20 by BA), and RHP Mason Thompson (No. 25 by both MLBP and BA).
Arias, an above-average fielder at shortstop, returns to Fort Wayne after finishing the 2017 season with the TinCaps. Only 17 at the time, he batted .242 in 16 regular-season games with the TinCaps, but hit .364 in the playoffs (the TinCaps reached the Midwest League finals). He started his 2017 season by batting .275 in 37 rookie-league games.
Arias is one of eleven previous TinCaps returning to the team for the start of this season.
Ruiz split the 2017 season between the Padres and Royals farm systems. (Kansas City sent him to San Diego in a six-player trade in late July.) He played in 52 rookie-league games for those organizations last year, cumulatively batting .350 with four homers, 10 triples, 20 doubles, 26 stolen bases and 39 runs batted in, earning him Arizona League MVP honors. Baseball America projects the 19-year-old Dominican Republic native as “a potential above-average hitter with above-average power as he gets stronger.”
Ornelas, a Mexico native who just turned 18 last month, made his pro debut last year, batting .276 with 3 HR and 26 RBI in 53 Arizona League games.
An 18-year-old outfielder like Ornelas, Rosario also made his pro debut last year. The Dominican Republic native batted .299 with 1 HR, 24 RBI and 8 SB in 52 Arizona League games. Fun facts about Rosario from Baseball America: He can do standing backflips (Shades of Ozzie Smith, anyone?) and runs a 6.5-second 60-yard dash.
Thompson is a returning TinCap looking for better luck his second time with the team. Last year he was limited to seven starts because of injuries, and posted a 4.67 ERA in the 27 innings he pitched.
A TinCap that will probably draw some attention solely because of his name is Henry Henry, a 19-year-old right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic. He mostly pitched in short-season Class A- last season, going 2-5 with a 3.48 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 14 walks in 51.2 innings (12 games/11 starts) for the Tri-City Dust Devils of the Northwest League. Fort Wayne is his first full-season assignment.
Click here to see Fort Wayne’s entire Opening Day roster.
The TinCaps will once again be managed by Anthony Contreras. You can read about him and his coaching staff here.
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