A recent poll of MLB executives named Nate Pearson of the Blue Jays as the prospect with the best potential fastball, which shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone who has followed the young fireballer.
The 2019 season will be remembered for the arrival of young, potential stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and several others. And the 2020 campaign could belong to Nate Pearson if things go according to plan.
Even with a vastly improved starting rotation that now features Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, Matt Shoemaker, and a host of other talented young arms, there is a buzz already starting around Nate Pearson for the 2020 season, and we haven’t even started Spring Training yet. That’s what happens when you dominate three levels of the minor leagues in a single season, and when you have a fastball that some folks believe could even reach 110 miles per hour at it’s peak.
Speaking of that electric fastball, MLB pipeline recently did a poll with a bunch of MLB executives, and asked them: Which prospect has the best fastball? I realize I’m a little bias, but I wasn’t shocked to see Pearson’s name at the top of the list, receiving 50% of the vote.
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Other big name pitching prospects that were mentioned included Michael Kopech of the White Sox (13%), Tarik Skubal of the Tigers (8%) and an other list that included Logan Gilbert, MacKenzie Gore, Brusdar Graterol, Hunter Greene, Daniel Lynch, Luis Patino, and Grayson Rodriguez.
Gore considered to be the top pitching prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, sitting at #4 overall on their top 100 list, with Pearson as the third-highest rated pitcher at #10. Kopech comes in as the sixth-highest rated pitcher (#17 overall), and is the closest to Pearson when it comes to fastball potential, at least in the view of the executives who took the poll.
MLB.com also had this to include:
Not only does Nate Pearson hit triple-digits, but he also only walked 2.4 per nine in 2019 (2.3 in his career). That combination of velocity and command of it makes him the clear winner.
After dominating in High-A through six starts (0.86 ERA, 0.619 WHIP, 35 K’s vs 3 walks), Pearson was quickly moved up to Double-A. In New Hampshire he continued to mow through the competition, posting a 2.59 ERA, a 0.989 WHIP, and 69 strikeouts against 21 walks in 62.2 innings. From there he finished the season in encouraging fashion with a positive showing in Triple-A as well, pitching to a 3.00 ERA, a 0.833 WHIP, and striking out 15 across three starts and 18 innings with the Buffalo Bisons.
If not for a freak injury during his first start of the 2018 season, there’s a chance Pearson would already have his first MLB appearance under his belt. For those that don’t remember, he was hit on his non-throwing arm by a come-backer during the second inning of his first start, placing him on the Injured List for the rest of the year. He did make six starts in the Arizona Fall League that year to try and get back some of the lost innings, and was named an AFL All-Star in the process.
With only 123.1 professional innings under his belt, I can understand why the Blue Jays will likely bring him along slowly in 2020. The assumption is that he’ll start the year back in Triple-A with the Bisons, and that we’ll see him make his MLB debut at some point later in the year. That will allow the coaching staff to manage his innings count more effectively, and let’s face it, it’ll also give the Blue Jays another year of contract control, but that’s a whole other thing.
It can be dangerous to buy into the hype of a prospect before they’ve reached the highest level, but I think it’s safe to say that Pearson has the potential to be the best homegrown pitcher from the Blue Jays in a very long time. It’s especially exciting when executives from other MLB teams think so too.