This past season was not kind to former Blue Jays top prospect Nate Pearson, as the 6’6″ right-hander started the year on the IL due to mononucleosis and appeared in only 15.1 innings at the Minor League level as he dealt with a lat injury as well.
The time spent on the mound produced a 3.52 ERA through 13 outings (12 in relief), striking out 20 batters for an 11.2 K/9 rate with eight hits and six earned runs allowed. He would hit the upper 90s with his fastball and was executing his offspeed stuff well, the difficulty was his health and getting reps under his belt after also missing time in 2021 with a sports hernia injury.
With that in mind, Pearson headed south to the Dominican Winter League and joined the Tigres del Licey for the 2022/2023 season, working out of the bullpen for a team that also features former Blue Jays (and their prospects) in Emilio Bonifácio, Dawel Lugo, Hector Perez, and Esmil Rogers.
Blue Jays pitcher Nate Pearson suiting up for Tigres del Licey
The Dominican Winter League regular season runs from mid-October to mid-December, so Pearson should be able to get some innings under his belt after being on the shelf for a large portion of the 2022 campaign.
So far, the Florida product has been outstanding out of the bullpen, appearing in five games and holding opposing batters hitless while striking out four compared to one walk, amassing a 0.200 WHIP in the process. The former first-round pick continues to throw his fastball with velocity and is mixing up his offspeed pitches, getting a majority of hitters to generate weak contact via fly ball or ground out.
Although the sample size is small, things are starting to trend in the right direction for Pearson as he continues to fight for a regular spot on the Blue Jays’ active roster. It will be interesting to see how the Jays plan to use him come Spring Training time but I would imagine it might be a season in the relief corps for Pearson given his limited action last year. They could have him continue to start games in AAA in the event of an injury to the main rotation but that would be risky given his injury past and because of his time in Winter League ball.
That could bode well for the Blue Jays, especially since the club could benefit from a hard-throwing swing-and-miss type arm that Pearson has. The question will be whether he can stay healthy, as injuries have limited him to just 33.0 innings at the big league level since 2020.