Coming off on an injury shortened 2018 season, Toronto Blue Jays’ prospect, Nate Pearson has returned to his dominant form.
When Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins took over the Blue Jays front office after the 2015 season, they stated that one of their priorities was to rebuild the farm system. Now ranked 5th out of 30 by MLB, they have succeeded in assembling an impressive group of position playing prospects.
If the ultimate goal is building a team that is capable of contending for a World Series championship around Vlad Guerrero Jr, they need top pitching talent as well. 22 year old Nate Pearson is their highest ranked pitching prospect. Their next highest ranked pitching prospect is 18 year old Eric Pardinho who pitched at rookie ball in 2018 and hasn’t pitched in 2019 yet due to injury. Clearly he is a ways away from MLB. Most of the other Jays’ pitching prospects project as middle to back end of the rotation starters or maybe bullpen arms. Pearson’s development is crucial to the Jays organization.
Pearson was limited to 1 game with the A+ Dunedin Blue Jays in 2018. After returning from an oblique injury, he was hit by a line drive and suffered a fractured ulna. The Jays wanted to get him back to action as soon as he was healthy, so they sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he pitched in 6 games.
The Jays have to like what they have gotten from Pearson so far in 2019. In 4 games so far he has a very fine 1.29 era. His 0.64 whip ranks third in the Florida State league. He has recorded 20 Ks while issuing only 1 walk. His fastball is regularly clocked in the high 90s while occasionally registering triple digits.
Fangraphs already ranks his fastball (currently 70 grade, projected as 80) and slider (currently 60 grade, projected as 65) as above average for a major league pitcher. Even his curveball and changeup are projected to be a bit above MLB average pitches at 55 each. For context, Fangraphs ranks prospects’ tools on a scale from 20 to 80, with 50 being considered MLB average. Scouts have their doubts regarding Pearson’s ability to command his pitches. His command is projected as 45 grade, just below average. His results so far have exceeded those expectations. In his first pro season back in 2017, he issued 2.37 BB/9 while striking out 11.37/9. So far in 2019, those ratios have both improved….0.64 BB/0 and 12.86 K/9!
Assuming that the stays healthy, he is earning a promotion to AA New Hampshire. He isn’t being challenged much by A ball hitters, I would expect to see him in a Fisher Cats uniform no later than June 1st. Florida State league hitters, aside from his Dunedin Blue Jays teammates, won’t be sorry to see him go. Facing tougher competition will help further his development. Once there, the organization will no doubt keep a close eye on his development and depending on how he adjusts, he may not finish the season at AA. I’m expecting his 2019 season to look a little like Ryan Borucki‘s in 2017, with a little more time spent in the high minor leagues. Borucki played in 19 games at A+ in 2017, then 7 games at AA and finally finished the season with a game at AAA. Given Pearson’s tools and success, it makes sense to fast track his development.
It’s safe to assume there will be vacancies in Toronto’s rotation in 2020. Stroman, Sanchez and Shoemaker (likely headed to the DL) are under team control through 2020. Buchholz and Richard (yet to pitch for the Jays due to injury) are eligible for free agency after 2019. I’m expecting at least a few of these to be traded at the deadline or leave as free agents. If Pearson continues his dominant pitching, we could see him pitching for the MLB Blue Jays as early as 2020.
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