Blue Jays: Pearson should continue starting & avoid the bullpen in 2022

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 5: Nate Pearson #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches to the Oakland Athletics in the ninth inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 5, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 5: Nate Pearson #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches to the Oakland Athletics in the ninth inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 5, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

A top prospect in the Blue Jays organization for the last couple of years, Nate Pearson made his MLB Debut in 2020 and was looking for a spot in the rotation to begin the 2021 campaign.

That idea did not come to fruition, as he would begin the season on the injured list and would begin the year in AAA, making one start with the Bisons before being called up to face the Houston Astros on May 9th. Pearson struggled with his command, going only 2.1 innings and walking five batters while striking out zero and putting up three earned runs on the board.

He would then spend the next few months both on the injured list and in the minors before returning as a reliever when the rosters expanded in September, ending on a high note by appearing in 11 games and pitching to a 2.84 ERA through 12.2 innings, liming batters to a .208 batting average. The Florida product did continue to struggle with his command on the mound, walking seven batters as a reliever.

After undergoing sports hernia surgery this past offseason, Pearson should be entering the 2022 campaign healthy and looking for a spot on the active roster. With the injury stints that have limited his innings since turning professional, some are wondering if the club is going to put Pearson back in the bullpen in order to build up his arm and get some innings under his belt this season. This makes sense and does have its positive benefits, but when it comes to the long-term goal for Pearson and his role on the club, I think it would be a smarter option to have the right-hander continue starting, even if that means he has to start the season in AAA.

Looking at the Blue Jays rotation picture, there appears to be one open spot with Hyun Jin Ryu, Jose Berrios, Alek Manoah, and Kevin Gausman already locks to make Opening Day. This leaves one spot open to internal candidates like Pearson, Tom Hatch, and Ross Stripling, that is unless the front office goes out and adds a veteran starting pitcher prior to the start of the campaign.

A strong Spring Training could see Pearson secure that last rotation spot but it wouldn’t be surprising if the club lets him get his arm back into starting shape in AAA before throwing him to the wolves at the Major League level.

Even after a season marred by injury, the Blue Jays should still have Nate Pearson starting next year and avoid having him pitch out of the bullpen.

Similar to Manoah last year, if Pearson heads back to Buffalo and dominates hitters early, then the organization could expedite his promotion back to the rotation if the fifth candidate is struggling or if one of the other starters hits the injured list. I feel like the Blue Jays might keep him down there for a month or two before potentially bringing him back to the MLB as long as he can stay healthy and does not struggle. If he does run into issues and can’t reel in his command, he can continue to work on his delivery and mechanics without impacting the Major League roster but still having him still face strong competition as a starter.

Having Pearson continue starting should still be the organization’s long-term goal for the former first-round pick but he needs to stay healthy this season, as the club can’t use him in any capacity if he is on the IL again. Using him as a bullpen arm I feel impacts that goal, and while it may have positive benefits in regards to limiting innings to prevent injury as he won’t be going as deep into games or throwing as many pitches, he has the stamina and frame to pitch at the big league level as a starter but just needs to put it all together.

If the Blue Jays are that concerned with limiting his innings, having him begin the year as a starter and then transition to the bullpen towards the later parts of the season if necessary is an option that could be considered.

It does appear that the club is leaning towards Pearson continuing to be a starter, which is positive news for the former top prospect. He will still need to earn a spot in the rotation with other pitchers looking to do the same, and if he does not secure that fifth rotation spot, I hope the club sends him down to continue starting versus moving him to the bullpen just to keep him on the Major League roster.

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I am all for keeping Nate Pearson as a starter in 2022, even if it means he begins the year in the Minor Leagues.