Blue Jays: Planning a rotation that’s best for Nate Pearson
The Blue Jays not only need to improve their starting rotation this winter, they also need to plan to protect their star pitching prospect.
Regardless of how things look as far as how many games will be played, or if there will fans in the stands or not, we’re going to see a bit of a hangover in MLB from 2020.
We’re already seeing as much with the way the offseason is being approached financially by many clubs, and that make some sense for sure. However, the way the 2020 season went down is also going to affect the way big league manager’s do their jobs next season, especially when it comes to the pitching staff. For Charlie Montoyo and the Blue Jays, that’s amplified more with a premium young talent like Nate Pearson.
The Blue Jays’ top prospect made his big league debut in 2020 with mixed results. He flashed the electric repertoire that he’s become known for, but unfortunately also had to spend some time on the Injured List, a negative trend in the early part of his career. In fact, the top goal for Pearson in 2021 may be to simply make it through the season with a healthy arm, and that could change how he’s handled.
As I read Jeff Blair’s article on Sportsnet yesterday, a quote from super-agent Scott Boras jumped out to me, and it’s something I hadn’t considered nearly enough yet.
"“We have a deficit of pitching. Even our most steadfast starters — veterans — will have to go from 80 (innings pitched) to 180-200 innings. We have to re-bridge the game … to allow a full season to be played with minimal risk.”"
It makes perfect sense, and it’s going to be a consideration for every big league arm next season. Take Hyun Jin Ryu for instance, who threw 182.2 inning for the Dodgers in 2019, only to see that total drop to 67 this year with the shortened 60-game season. We saw the veteran start to tire near the end of this regular season calendar, and while that could be due to the starts and stops of the schedule, it’ll be something to keep in mind for him as well.
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As for Pearson, it’s especially important because of the way his development has been stalled throughout his career. He was limited to just 18 innings over five appearances during the regular season, which was disappointing after the club had hoped to build up his endurance. His career high for innings in a season as a pro was in 2019 with 101.2, but otherwise he’s been very limited. A freak injury during his first start in High-A in 2018 knocked him out for the season, and in total he threw just 123.1 innings as a minor leaguer.
The more I consider these factors, the more I realize that the Blue Jays won’t be able to take the reigns off of the fireballer just yet. More likely, it wouldn’t shock me if they kept him closer to 20 starts or something like 120 innings in 2021, assuming that he’s healthy and that the league has a full schedule. I’m not sure if that means they’d handle him like the club did Aaron Sanchez a few years back, when they planned a move to the bullpen later in the year, but it’s a possibility. It also may explain why the Blue Jays traded for Ross Stripling, as the swingman could work out of the bullpen as a long reliever, and help to spell Pearson as the need camp up.
As Boras mentioned, MLB managers may have to treat next season as a bit of a bridge year when handling their pitching staff, and even more so with young talents like Pearson. It’ll be a tough sell to the right-hander, and especially the fan base, but don’t be the least bit surprised if they handle him very delicately again in 2021.