Nate Pearson has been saying and doing all of the right things this season, and it makes the Blue Jays’ top pitching prospect remind me a lot of Justin Verlander.
Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling wrote a great piece about Nate Pearson a few days ago, and it’s definitely worth checking out. While I’ve been somewhat obsessed with following the Blue Jays’ top pitching prospect this season, even I learned a few things from the deep dive that Zwelling was able to take with the 23-year-old.
They talked a lot about the very successful season that Pearson just had over three levels of the minor league system, and the long road to get there, starting as far back as discussing life as a 16-year-old. However, it was a few of the things that were highlighted about how Pearson goes about his business these days that got me particularly excited.
One of the main topics of Zwelling’s article was whether or not the former first-round pick will eventually break Aroldis Chapman‘s current MLB record for the hardest recorded pitch of 105.8 miles per hour. It’s no guarantee that he will, but provided Pearson stays healthy I think there’s a very good chance he could do just that after arriving at the highest level and feeling the adrenaline of a big league ballpark. He’s already touched 104 miles per hour in a professional game, and he’s still improving. However, holding that kind of record is a small goal in the grand scheme of things, and it sounds like Pearson understands that wholeheartedly.
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I was very impressed to learn about how dedicated Pearson is, and that he has a thirst for knowledge and a desire to improve in any way he can. He’s taken to analytics, and he has worked hard at specific programs to improve things like his spin rate. He also works very hard to do his best to keep that golden arm of his in the best health possible, and his healthy 2019 campaign has a lot of people excited.
The more that I read about Pearson’s work ethic, the more he reminds me of one of the best pitchers in baseball of the last decade or more, Justin Verlander. The veteran has continued to dominate into the twilight of his career, and he’s done so by taking impeccable care of his body, and also embracing the analytics that the Astros organization has become known for.
Just as I was starting to make the comparison in my head, Zwelling pointed out another similarity that made me laugh out loud. Just like Verlander, Pearson doesn’t always throw his best heater in the early part of the game, preferring to keep his top fastball on the tool belt for later on in his outing. Verlander became known for hitting triple digits on the radar gun in the 6th or 7th inning, seemingly getting stronger as he went along, and it turns out Pearson likes to do something very similar. That’s a good thing for a number of reasons.
It shows that the first round pick understands that strain that pitching at max effort all the time can have on your body, and that it’s not always necessary, especially with an arsenal like he’s working with. He also understands the value of having a balanced approach, and that an effective slider or curveball can be just as valuable and necessary as the ability to blow someone away with a triple-digit fastball. The fact that the 23-year-old hasn’t just relied on that to push him through the minor leagues (and he likely could have), shows maturity, and his understanding of the long game.
If there is any modern pitcher that understands the long game of a MLB pitching career, it’s Verlander. And while the comparison obviously isn’t perfect, I see a lot of similarities in between the future Hall of Famer and the Blue Jays’ top prospect. Pearson is even bigger (Verlander is 6’5, Pearson even bigger at 6’6) and he has the raw talent to become an ace, All-Star, and maybe even a Cy Young winner someday.
It’s not the raw talent that will get him to that level of his lofty goals though, and thankfully Florida native not only understands it, he embraces it. He’s got a long way to go before he’ll catch the ageless wonder. but I really like the path that he’s on right now. His combination of talent, work ethic, and thirst for knowledge are exactly what you want to see out of a future rotation cornerstone, and Pearson has been thriving as a result of it.
And just like Verlander, the talented young right-hander can reach back for triple-digits and then some, but he understands that you don’t always have to. The discipline to hold back on your best weapon, and the ability to not even have to use it until you want to, is a rare thing in baseball. Pearson has that much and more in common with the future Hall of Famer, and if he becomes even half of the pitcher, then the Blue Jays are going to be in very good hands.