On Terrance Gore’s Upside

In their most recent round of roster cuts, the Kansas City Royals optioned outfielder Terrance Gore to High-A Wilmington. Gore was one of seven players the Royals cut this week, and one of hundreds who have been cut from their respective teams this spring. However, Gore differs from most of these guys in that he was a player of some significance the last time meaningful baseball was played: In last year’s World Series. Gore became something of a household name last October, when he served as the Royals designated pinch-runner during their in their unlikely run to the World Series. The speedy 23-year-old appeared in six playoff games for the Royals — and stole three bases — without recording a single plate appearance or inning on defense.

Gore’s blazing speed made him an exciting player to watch last October, and as far as pinch-runners go, he’s about as good as they come. But unfortunately for Gore, pinch-runners can only provide so much value, even if they represent a very important run. Back in 2012, Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus reasoned that Billy Hamilton would be worth just one-tenth of a win over one month of games while serving as a pinch-runner.

Of course, Hamilton has since turned into a nice little player, racking up a respectable 3.7 fWAR last season. However, Gore’s nowhere near the hitter that Hamilton is. By no means is Hamilton a good hitter, but he can hit at least a little bit — He put up a 79 wRC+ in 2014. Gore on the other hand, put up a 57 wRC+ … in A-ball.

The FanGraphs depth charts — which use a blend of Steamer and ZiPS projections — forecast Gore for pitcher-esque .206/.264/.247 batting line, or a 45 wRC+, in the majors in 2015. Even in the handful of games he’s projected to play, that’s bad enough to drag him down to 0.2 wins below replacement. Unless you’re a pitcher, you need at least some of offensive ability to be worthy of a roster spot outside of September or October. Simply put, Gore doesn’t have that. He’s nowhere near good enough to hit big league pitching, which renders him minor league fodder for 10 months out of the year.

But that’s not to say he’s condemned to this fate forever. Gore’s still just 23 years old (he turns 24 in June). Players that young make significant improvements all the time. Gore’s pretty terrible now, but he certainly wouldn’t be the first terrible minor leaguer to develop into a usable big leaguer.

According to PECOTA, the house projection system of Baseball Prospectus, Gore’s top comp is his teammate, Jarrod Dyson. Dyson has carved out a niche as the Royals fourth outfielder, and might even be deserving of a starting gig. Both players spent their age-23 seasons in High-A Wilmington, and Dyson’s season didn’t look terribly different from Gore’s.

Jarrod Dyson 10% 18% .028 .328 15%
Terrance Gore 7% 15% .040 .293 14%

If Dyson was able to improve his craft to the point where he was a usable big league outfielder, who’s to say Gore won’t follow the same path?

KATOH, that’s who. KATOH gives Gore a puny 16% chance of playing another game in the majors, and just an 8% chance of amassing more than 4 WAR through age-28. Want to see some bad and obscure baseball players? Check out this list of players aged between 21 and 25 whose walk rate, strikeout rate, BABIP, ISO and stolen base frequency fell within 1.5 standard deviations of Gore’s league-adjusted numbers in High-A. Note that this list only includes players who were 28 or older last year.

Year Player Age MLB Games thru 28 MLB WAR thru 28
2000 Esteban German 22 156 0.9
1997 Trent Durrington 21 93 -0.4
2008 Darren Ford 22 92 0.3
2000 Esix Snead 24 18 0.1
2007 Ovandy Suero 25 0 0.0
1990 Ellerton Maynard 24 0 0.0
2009 Jose De Los Santos 24 0 0.0
2003 Chris Morris 23 0 0.0
1999 Nelson Castro 23 0 0.0
1996 Kyle Towner 23 0 0.0
2007 Pedro Powell 23 0 0.0
2004 Alex Requena 23 0 0.0
2001 Jesus Medrano 22 0 0.0
2003 Ruddy Yan 21 0 0.0
2002 Alex Requena 21 0 0.0

You know you’re in trouble when Esteban German represents the best case scenario. Virtually all 15 of these players were speed-only hitters who never really learned how to hit. Clearly, Dyson (who was too young to make the cut for the list above) is the exception rather than the rule. Most hitters with offensive profiles similar to Gore’s never amount to much.

More likely than not, Gore’s reached his ceiling. He will never be anything more than he already is: An excellent pinch-runner. Gore does one thing well, and he does it really well; but it takes more than 80-grade speed to be a big league asset. Even players who primarily rely on their non-hitting skills — like speed and defense — need to clear a certain offensive threshold, and Gore falls well short of this threshold. To be worthy of even a fourth or fifth outfield spot, he’d need to significantly improve his offensive game. Incremental improvements would do very little to move the needle on his big league utility.

Gore has a particular set of skills that makes him useful, but only slightly useful, to a major league club. And given his lack of offensive ability as a 23-year-old, that’s unlikely to change as he matures as a player. Gore’s a good bet to rejoin the Royals this September for a second tour of duty as a pinch-runner extraordinaire. And barring some sort of leg injury, he’ll probably receive cameos in future Septembers as well. But the odds that he’ll ever be rosterable from April through August are slim to none.

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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9 years ago

I think everyone involved would be thrilled (and probably left scratching their heads) if Terrance Gore had a .446 slugging in the majors 🙂

9 years ago
Reply to  Gob


Even I’m messing up.

Just Me
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mitchell

How about neither. He didn’t get a bit in 11 PAs last year.