Blue Jays: How a shortened schedule could affect Nate Pearson
We’re not there yet, but if MLB has to look at a shortened regular season schedule, that could theoretically change the timing of Nate Pearson’s debut with the Blue Jays.
I’ve been looking for some silver linings in this whole situation we find ourselves in, with no baseball to watch. And by golly, I think I might have found something that could theoretically benefit the Blue Jays a little bit.
In order for this to work, baseball would see a reduced schedule from their usual 162 games, and I’m definitely not rooting for that to happen at all. However, there’s a decent chance that could happen in 2020, and if it does, it might mean a slight tweak in how the Blue Jays build their roster. In fact, it could mean that Nate Pearson could start the season in the big leagues, and still retain the all important “service time” that MLB front offices value so much.
The way the rules work is once a player has accrued 172 days of MLB service time, that counts as one year of service time. The reason it has become popular for teams to hold back their best rookies at the start of the season, is because it takes 187 days to complete a MLB campaign (it used to be 183 prior to 2018). So, if Vladimir Guerrero Jr., for example, had started last season on the MLB roster, the Blue Jays would have only had control of six years of his contract instead of the seven they ended up with. In some ways, it was a blessing in disguise that Vlad Jr. was injured during spring training last year, as the decision was made for the Blue Jays in that case.
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Getting back to Pearson this year, let’s say the season is reduced by even a couple of weeks, which seems very likely at this point. That would take the whole service time issue out of the equation, and it could change the way that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro approach things with their top prospect.
There is definitely some truth to the idea that Pearson needs to build up his arm strength, as he only has 123.2 professional innings under his belt. Because he broke his arm in his first start of the 2018 season, there’s no way the Blue Jays are going to let him pitch out of the rotation for the entire year, unless the schedule is severely reduced. Last season he ended up with 101.2 innings across three levels, so it’s hard to see the Blue Jays going beyond more than 130 from him this season. There are conflicting attitudes around the game about how much to limit a pitcher’s workload year over year, but I don’t think we’ll see 150 innings from the Blue Jays’ prized prospect in 2020.
That means they could start him in the rotation, and then transition him to the bullpen later in the season, as they did with Aaron Sanchez early in his career. They could also start his year in Buffalo for a month or so, controlling his innings limit and giving him a little more time to develop, although I’m not sure that’s necessary.
Until we know for sure how long baseball is going to be delayed from getting back to normal, it’s hard to say exactly what the plan could be for Pearson this season. However, the longer the delay goes on, the better the chances are that he starts the season in the big leagues.