Player Battles are back! We did quite a few of these in the months leading into the new season and we felt there’s enough information now to take a side. Up first are two pitchers that are firmly in the top 10 in the pitching prospect ranks and have a really good case to be considered top five.
Casey Mize began the year in High-A and lasted all of four starts (27 IP, 1 ER) before earning a promotion to Double-A. Here he hasn’t been challenged either, owning a 1.27 ERA in 49.2 innings with a 48/10 K/BB. Everyone’s clamoring for the 22-year-old to jump to Triple-A already. Gore’s held steady at High-A all season, posting similarly eye-popping numbers with a 1.13 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and 77 strikeouts in 55.2 innings. What the 20-year-old has done is only more impressive when you consider it’s the Cal League.
So now it’s time to draw the line in the sand. Where do we stand?
NOTE: Most answers were written before Mize’s June 13 exit with shoulder soreness. For now, we’re publishing with the assumption that the injury is not severe.
I often start by asking myself: If I had one player, would I trade him for the other? If I had Gore, would I move him for Mize?
I wouldn’t. Give me Gore. It comes back to my pitching prospect philosophy: upside over everything. Between these two, the upside manifests itself in the strikeouts. Gore owns a career 34 K% to Mize’s 26 K%. To put that into perspective, that’s roughly Blake Snell (3rd in K%) and Walker Buehler (19th in K%). The two are darlings with their command profiles but I like that Gore’s arsenal is coming from the left side with above-average velocity and an explosive over-the-top delivery that’s difficult to pick up. I prefer the curveball/slider combo to Mize’s splitter/slider, though I’ll admit Mize’s sequencing is superb when I saw him live and that helps the swing and miss and I can’t speak too much to Gore’s.
Then comes the environment and the age factor. Gore is two years younger than his average competition and pitching masterfully in a hitter’s league whereas Mize’s FSL and Eastern Leagues are pitcher friendly. I do take into consideration the timeline of a pitcher as well and while Mize will beat Gore to the bigs, the Padres are an aggressive team as well and they’re likely only a year apart. - Eddy Almaguer
I own Casey Mize in my most important dynasty league and I prioritized him over several others last summer. Of all the pitchers in the 2018 draft class, Mize is easily the most polished one with three pitches that are all plus to plus-plus. He can run his fastball up to 97-98 when he needs to and his splitter is absolutely devastating. He has the stuff and command (just 11 walks in 75.2 innings) to be a frontline starter and his floor is likely that of a low-end SP2.
And yet, for fantasy purposes, give me all the MacKenzie Gore and the upside that goes with him. Gore has an easy delivery with a pronounced leg kick that reminds me a little of Clayton Kershaw. His fastball jumps out of his hand and his curveball is already a put away pitch. Just 20, Gore has run through California League hitters this year to the tune of 77 strikeouts in just 55.2 innings. It’s that type of dominating stuff that tips the scales for me. Gore is an ace in the making and I would rank him slightly ahead of Mize. - Jason Kamlowsky
The thing I always go back to with Gore is that his changeup was often considered his best future pitch coming out of high school. For him to carve through the Midwest and Cal Leagues with his curveball and slider as the his go-to off-speed pitches, knowing his changeup is still developing is terrifying for right-handed hitters. And to do what he did in the Midwest League last year (3.25 FIP, 4.1 K:BB) with little in the way of consistent health is a testament to how advanced he was—as a 19-year-old—for the Class A level. I also recently found out from a writer at the East Village Times, Austin Hartsfield, that Gore often practiced his mechanics back home for 30 minutes daily, creating a loud thumping sound in the living room below for other members of his household. I don’t know the time period on this, or if he still does in hotel rooms across the Cal League, but I would not be surprised. Gore is as intense as it gets on and off the mound. I’m all in.
Mize is just as good with a longer track record and multiple pitches already developed beyond Gore’s best pitch. Both have long careers ahead, but I have to go with Gore knowing the person and player he is. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been as embedded with Mize that I defer to Gore, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. -Lance Brozdowski
Let me start off by saying that both of these arms are great, and both are in my top ten fantasy prospects lists that we are rolling out soon (health permitting of course). With that said, I lean towards Gore for a few reasons. The first being his athleticism. Find me a pitcher that has an athletic delivery as he does and throws strikes at this high of a rate. His balance and timing are incredible, and did I mention he’s only 20 years old? He’s also putting up arguably more impressive numbers when you consider the environments of these two arms. Gore misses more bats and yes I’m splitting hairs here but Gore is a clear number one for me while Mize is likely a number two. - Matt Thompson
Part of me wants to take Casey Mize just to go full contrarian. There’s also the news of the injury on June 13 that we need to compete with. That being said, I like everyone else would take Gore over Mize. For fantasy there’s just too much upside, too many pitches in his arsenal, and he’s been every bit as dominant as Mize and he’s two years younger. Gore’s arsenal is just as deep, they sit in a similar velo range on their fastball, but Gore does all this from the left side. Add in Gore’s extremely unique and downright fun mechanics and you have a player that’s a thrill to watch. Despite seeing Mize in person multiple times this season, I’ll take the El Chupacabra, I’ve only seen on tape. GORE! - Ralph from da Couch.