Toronto Blue Jays 2020 Report Card: Nate Pearson

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 18: Nate Pearson #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on August 18, 2020 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 18: Nate Pearson #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on August 18, 2020 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Jays Journal contributors will be authoring Toronto Blue Jays report cards based on how each player performed in 2020. In this edition, we take a look at Nate Pearson.


Name: Nate Pearson
Born: August 20, 1996 in Odessa, Florida
Junior College: Florida International University then transferred to College of Central Florida
Drafted: 1st round of the 2017 MLB Draft (Compensation pick for losing Edwin Encarnacion)
Throw:  Right                                                                       Bats: Right
Grade: *C+*

Nate Pearson entered the 2020 season as the Toronto Blue Jays top internal prospect and was looking to make the roster out of spring training/summer camp. He wouldn’t make the opening day roster, but the Blue Jays would call him up on July 29 to debut against the Washington Nationals (after gaining the extra year of contract control).

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Before joining the Blue Jays, Pearson would pitch one season at Florida International University before transferring to College of Central Florida. At CCF, he would start 13 games and would pitch 81 innings, crafting a 1.56 ERA with 118 strikeouts and 23 walks while earning the Rawlings JUCO Pitcher of the Year Award.

He would be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2017 amateur draft, going 28th overall in the first round as a compensation pick from the Cleveland Indians because they signed Edwin Encarnacion during free agency.


Standing 6’6″, Pearson’s bread and butter is his high-velocity fastball, which sits in the high 90’s but has reached 100-104 mph. With his towering stature, he attacks hitters with his downward trajectory and is quite aggressive on both sides of the plate. To complement his fastball, Pearson also features a curveball, slider, and change-up, which all bode well given the velocity on his fastball.

His slider and curveball are the two more polished pitches when reviewing the off-speed arsenal, with his slider having a late sharp break in the high 80’s that is used on both left and right-handed batters. The curveball also has a significant break which is emphasized with his tall presence on the mound, while his change-up is considered more of a work in progress, but still effective.

2020 Stats

Making his debut on July 29th, Pearson would go on to pitch in five games this season, four of which he started. His debut against the Nationals was pretty impressive, going five innings while not giving up an earned run and striking out five with just two hits and two walks.

The next three outings would be a bit more of a struggle for the right-hander, as he would be pitch 11.1 innings while giving up 12 earned runs, 10 walks, and striking out nine batters. He would also give up five home runs and saw his ERA climb to 6.61 during that time.

Pearson would find himself on the injured list on August 19th and would be diagnosed with a flexor strain in his right pitching elbow. He would miss just over a month of baseball, returning at the end of September and making a relief appearance against the Baltimore Orioles, going 1.2 innings while giving up one hit, one walk, and striking out two. The JUCO product would go on to finish the regular season with a 6.00 ERA, 13 walks, 16 strikeouts, and a 1.500 WHIP.

He would make one postseason appearance during the second A.L. Wild Card game against the Tampa Bay Rays, making a relief appearance in the fourth inning. The Odessa, Florida native would pitch well, going two innings while striking out five batters and not giving up a hit or a walk during the outing.

Explaining the Grade

Given the COVID-19 impacted season and the fact that Nate Pearson missed a significant amount of time during the short season due to injury, this grade has a big asterisk beside it. The sample is small and Pearson didn’t really get a fair chance to find a bit of rhythm given the delayed start to the season, plus his injury.

One thing that Pearson struggled with this season was his command, as he issued quite a few walks in a short amount of innings, something that the right-hander really hasn’t experienced during his pro career and time developing throughout the minor leagues. He also had difficulty getting out of the first inning this season without earned runs on the board, giving up seven earned runs during the first inning of his four starts, digging himself a hole that he had to get out of right away for the rest of the game. His fastball was electric just like everyone expected, and his off-speed pitches were working well, it just looks like he was struggling with the command and also had some issues against LHB, seeing lefty opponents slash .313/.436/.719 with four home runs in 39 plate appearances.

It actually makes you wonder if the forearm issue was possibly bothering him earlier in the month or maybe he some nervousness to begin his career in the MLB? Regardless of the reason, everybody on the Blue Jays roster is getting graded this off-season on Jays Journal and I’m giving Pearson’s grade an asterisk given the circumstances.

Future on the Blue Jays Roster

Moving forward, Nate Pearson is going to be a starter with the Toronto Blue Jays and many predict that he will have top of the rotation potential given his arsenal and development. The Blue Jays gained an additional year of control over the right-hander with the delayed call-up, and Baseball-Reference has Pearson hitting arbitration in 2023 and free agency in 2027.

In an article by Sportsnet’s Mike Johnston, Pearson emphasized that he thinks the Blue Jays will have a plan in place to watch his innings count towards the midway point of the 2021 season, but his most important goal for next year is to stay healthy and get as many innings in as a starter and go from there. This seems like a pretty plausible scenario given the injury last season and some previous injuries in his career limiting his innings during his development in the Blue Jays farm system.

Next. Toronto Blue Jays 2020 Report Cards: A.J. Cole. dark

With Nate Pearson going into 2021 healthy and hungry for a job in the rotation, he joins a jam-packed roster full of youthful talent that could make the Blue Jays a force to be reckoned with in the A.L. East in the very near future.