One of the more exciting prospects in the Blue Jays system for a while has been Nate Pearson. The 28th overall pick of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft landed in Toronto and was immediately a big name. He throws so hard and has such great stuff.
Pearson averaged 97.8 mph on his fastball last season which had him on the 98th percentile according to baseball savant. However, even with his electric stuff, Pearson has not been very effective at the big league level.
In 17 career appearances (five starts) Pearson has posted a 5.18 ERA in 33 innings pitched. He has walked 25 batters (6.8 BB/9) and has struck out 36 batters (9.8 K/9). The K/9 number is really solid, the walk number makes him very hard to trust.
When Pearson returns from his stint on the IL, he should be used as a starting pitcher in the Minor Leagues before rejoining the Blue Jays.
Pearson has struggled not only with his performance on the field but has also struggled to stay healthy. This has been a common theme for starting pitchers who throw so hard. Someone like Jacob deGrom has struggled to stay healthy once he started throwing 99 mph consistently.
Pearson is currently on the IL with mono, which is unfortunate since it isn’t even an injury. When he is able to return, he will most likely be heading to Buffalo to get back into game shape.
The Jays currently have Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Yusei Kikuchi in their rotation. All of them are locked up for at least another year after this season. Unless the Jays pivot to a six-man rotation or there is a serious pitching injury, Pearson will not have a clear spot in the rotation. Once the Jays signed Kikuchi, it made Pearson’s spot on the team even more questionable than it already was.
Pearson was used in relief last season, and that can still be an option if need be. I personally would not be able to trust him in high leverage situations due to his lack of control. If he goes down to the minors and pitches well, the Jays will have some options. They can use him as a centerpiece in a trade to fill a need that might come up at the deadline but can also bring him up if a starter gets hurt or pitch in relief.
Pearson is 25 years old so this season is crucial for him and the Blue Jays. Teams eventually will not have much interest in him even with his high ceiling if he can’t stay on the field and isn’t effective at the Major League level. The Jays need to get something out of him whether it’s in a trade or in relief, but I think the best way to make that happen would be to have him be a starter for a while in Buffalo once he is healthy.