If there were a Blue Jays equivalent of the dictionary and you were to look up 'frustrating', you might find the name of Nate Pearson used as an example, (if not Alek Manoah). Without doubt, he is an extremely polarising figure within the realm of Toronto sports.
On the one hand, we're talking about a player who has talent oozing out of his very being. At one point Pearson was considered a future staff ace, ranked back in 2020 as the third-best pitching prospect in all of baseball and eighth overall by MLB Pipeline.
However, as we sit here right now, the righty has yet to fulfil his potential and you have to wonder if he will ever reach the highs he is capable of. Although maybe it should be more a question of if he will ever perform to expectations on a consistent basis, because there were certainly signs there last season that he'd finally cracked the code.
Consider that in his first 17 appearances of the 2023 season, Pearson had an insanely good stat line which included a 4-0 record, 1.96 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in a combined 23.0 innings. He wasn't relying on his fastball as much -- although it was still as effective -- while his location was much improved.
Unfortunately for the 27-year-old though, this turned out to be almost too good to be true. He subsequently endured a 16-game spell, with a terrible 9.53 ERA and 1.650 WHIP in 17.0 combined innings that led to him being sent down to Buffalo.
Pearson did make a couple more appearances in late September for the Blue Jays, allowing no runs in 2.2 combined innings. As a result, he ended the season with a 4.85 ERA, 4.85 FIP and 1.266 WHIP in 42.2 innings over 35 games; not great, but overall not horrific either.
In defence of the 2017 28th overall draft pick, his development -- or lack thereof -- has not been helped by an almost ridiculous string of injuries dating all the way back to 2018. Even though he did enjoy more good health in 2023, there is still a significant cause for concern within the Blue Jays organization.
In this respect, the reality is that Pearson is now never likely to a part of the starting rotation, never mind a staff ace. His durability will always be a worry while, in fairness, he has shown more glimpses of is his upside working out of the bullpen.
Still, there remains the question of if the Odessa, Florida native can truly prosper in Toronto, or if it is just better for all concerned if he starts over somewhere new? In this respect, this is a pivotal year for him, with it representing the final season of him holding a minor league option.
From a team control aspect, it should be noted Pearson still has two more years of arbitration eligibility before coming an unrestricted free agent in 2027. At the same time however, you would conceivably get good odds on him still being with the Blue Jays organization at that point.