Over the last few years it’s felt like Nate Pearson‘s health was the only barrier between him and becoming a star for the Blue Jays. These days the super-prospect has a new battle on his hands, and one he’s not very used to.
To be fair, “Big Nate” hasn’t had a lot of minor league experience prior to this season, still only having thrown a total of 137.0 innings over the last four-ish seasons. There was the freak-injury broken arm in 2017, a few trips to the big leagues, and of course a variety of other injury issues that have limited his innings count at any level. Regardless of all of that, Pearson has never had trouble mowing down minor league hitters. Until now that is.
Over his first 13.2 innings in Triple-A this season the power pitcher has posted a 7.24 ERA and a 1.390 WHIP, already allowing 11 earned runs. He hasn’t had any problem striking batters out, as he’s racked up 27 K’s over that short span, but otherwise he’s struggling against a level of competition that he’s absolutely blown away in the past. Part of the reason for that is a small sample size, but there’s a little more to the story this time around.
I don’t know that it’s something Blue Jays fans should panic about, especially when we keep in mind that the franchise has witnessed a Hall of Famer like Roy Halladay have to go all the way back to Single-A before eventually finding his groove at the highest level. I don’t know that Pearson will have to do anything that extreme, but the adjustments he’s been making lately could be a similar factor.
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The reason that Halladay needed to go all the way back to the lower rungs of the minor leagues was because he and the club decided on a major overhaul of his delivery. They made some drastic changes to his mechanics, and the results speak for themselves even if it took a little longer to get there.
In a similar fashion, Pearson has made some slight tweaks to his mechanics this year. The difference is the Blue Jays and the 24-year-old had a different focus in mind, and that was and is to keep him healthy and on the mound. He can have all the potential in the world, but if he spends most of the season on the IL then it doesn’t matter. Keeping things in perspective that way, we’re truly in the early stages of seeing if those adjustments might pay off.
I’ll admit that it’s a bit frustrating to see him scuffling in Triple-A right now, especially when the Blue Jays could use the boost he could theoretically bring to their big league pitching staff. We’ve also been waiting to see him truly unleashed since he made his MLB debut last year, and unfortunately injuries have kept him from being a consistent presence on the roster, or getting into a groove of any kind.
At this point, I think we likely have to change our expectations for Pearson, at least in the short-term. I 100% still believe that he’s going to become a star in the big leagues at some point. Having said that, I have a hard time seeing that come to pass in 2021, regardless of how badly the Blue Jays could use that kind of arm right now.
I still hope to see Pearson figure things out and make his way to the Blue Jays at some point this summer.