Blue Jays: 2021’s “what ifs” could be the answers in 2022

Aug 23, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo (25) speaks to the home plate umpire during the second inning against Chicago White Sox at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo (25) speaks to the home plate umpire during the second inning against Chicago White Sox at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 03: Nate Pearson #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch during a MLB game against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on September 3, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

When will the top prospect become a star?

If you ask me, one of the biggest disappointments of last season was the fact that Nate Pearson was only able to pitch 15.0 innings for the Blue Jays as he once again battled injuries. It’s been a recurring theme for the right-hander over the last few seasons, and something he’ll hope to put behind him in 2022.

For years “Big Nate” has been regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball, but some of that shine has started to wear off with repeated injury issues. That said, it wouldn’t take long for him to regain some of that attention if he can just stay healthy, and as of now there’s a big role waiting for him if he can do just that.

The Blue Jays have a very strong top-four in their starting rotation that includes Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Alek Manoah, but there are plenty of question marks about the fifth spot. It’s entirely possible and even likely that Atkins and company will bring in some outside help, but right now Pearson could have a legitimate chance to win the job. He’d have to battle the likes of Ross Stripling, Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay, and more among the internal candidates, but he would have the strongest upside of the group if things go well.

Of course, that’s been a big “if” so far for the 25 year old, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll win that rotation job even if he can stay healthy this spring. It’s possible he could land in the bullpen in a multi-inning role to start the year, where he could be a dominant weapon, or he might even spend some time in Buffalo waiting for a chance to join the rotation, and getting some extra work in.

As much as Blue Jays fans love to talk about who could be signed or acquired through a trade to join the rotation, I can’t help but hope that Pearson can win the job and run with it. If he could reach his potential that would push a high-end rotation into the argument for the best in baseball.

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