The Toronto Blue Jays are in the midst of a rebuild with many young players such as Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leading the way. The Blue Jays front office has made some intriguing moves this offseason, bringing in experienced starting pitchers. But there is one pitcher, in particular, who is set to make his big-league debut in 2020 who could be a key piece in Toronto for many years to come: Nate Pearson.
Toronto drafted the hard-throwing righty in the first round of the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft out of the College of Central Florida, giving the now 23-year-old a $2.45 million signing bonus. The 2019 season was just Pearson’s first full minor-league season after suffering an injury that forced him to miss all of 2018. Pearson flew through three different levels, advancing from High-A Dunedin all the way to Triple-A Buffalo by the end of 2019. He posted a 2.30 ERA in 101.2 innings, striking out 119 hitters last season. Oppositions compiled just a .176 batting average against Pearson.
Breakout Year in 2019
Although 2019 was just his first glimpse of the grind of a minor-league season, the hype is real surrounding the hard-throwing righty. According to MLB Pipeline, Pearson is the top prospect in the Blue Jays organization and the 10th ranked prospect in minor-league baseball.
It may seem premature to watch a guy pitch for only one season and make the assumption that he’s going to be a franchise-changing arm at the big-league level. But Pearson was utterly dominant in High-A, Double-A, and Triple A. It didn’t matter that hitters were getting better at each minor-league level, Pearson stepped up to the occasion every time. Blessed with a triple-digit fastball that can reach 104 mph, the 6-foot-6 flamethrower is the real deal. He has shown outstanding maturity in a short period of time, making his case for a call up to the show in 2020.
The Blue Jays don’t have a top-line starter in their rotation right now, but Pearson profiles to be precisely that. It may take him some time to get comfortable at the major-league level, but his stuff is absolutely electric and will definitely overpower big-league hitters.
Scouting Report on Pearson
Pearson features four quality offerings that he can throw for strikes: a four-seam fastball that sits in the high 90s and regularly touches triple-digits, a slider, curveball, and changeup. He throws a sharp slider in the high 80s with outstanding bite, profiling as an above-average swing-and-miss pitch at the major-league level. The curveball is a work in progress but is also a decent offering that he can usually throw for strikes. His changeup is still developing but should complement his other pitches well once he learns to throw it more effectively.
Without a doubt, Pearson has one of the best fastballs and sliders in the minors. When you can rear back and hit 104 mph, it’s difficult for anyone to catch up to it, whether it’s a minor leaguer or a big leaguer. He can also ramp up his slider to the low 90s, providing him with a deadly weapon to put away hitters and induce weak contact, especially against righties.
Thanks to his monstrous frame, Pearson creates outstanding downward plane, as he uncoils towards the plate. Pearson’s delivery is very fluent, and he’s also relatively deceptive, making it difficult for hitters to pick up the baseball out of his hand. The Blue Jays top prospect has shown the ability to throw strikes consistently and limit his free passes, another reason he looks to be a future ace in Toronto. Pearson has walked just 32 hitters in 123.1 minor-league innings.
The Toronto Blue Jays definitely have a future ace at their fingertips in Nate Pearson. He has nothing else to prove at the minor-league level, so there’s a very high chance that we see the 23-year-old make his MLB debut this season. Along with 2019 first-round draft pick Alek Manoah, who should make his MLB debut in the coming seasons, Toronto has two exciting starting pitchers who can lead their rotation for many years to come.