At long last, the Blue Jays are seeing what Nate Pearson is capable of

Toronto Blue Jays v Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

When Nate Pearson was selected in the first round of the 2017 draft, he was perceived as a potential staff ace for the Blue Jays. This was certainly understandable, given a talent level which had him tabbed as a top prospect.

Pearson duly rose through the ranks, displaying said talent for all to see. His only real speed bump came courtesy of a right arm injury, which prematurely ended his 2018 season.

Pearson eventually made his much anticipated major league debut in July 2020 and didn't disappoint. He allowed just two hits and a couple of walks in five scoreless innings, striking out five batters in the process.

Unable to build on strong start

Unfortunately for everyone concerned, this encouraging debut didn't provide a springboard for further success. Pearson finished the 2020 regular season with a 6.00 ERA and 1.500 WHIP, courtesy of five appearances which included four starts.

And yet there were still glimpses of what Pearson was capable of, after pitching two scoreless innings in the post season versus the Rays. Yes he came in after the game was all but over, but recording five strikeouts and no walks in a playoff game was impressive regardless.

The following season would get off to a nightmare start for the 26-year-old, as his first outing saw the Astros destroy him. He allowed four hits, five walks and three earned runs, before seeing his day ended after just 2.1 innings.

A new path for Pearson

As tough as this was for Pearson, it contributed towards ultimately taking a different approach with him. The decision was made to place him in the bullpen when he returned to the roster in September.

The returns proved to be extremely encouraging, as Pearson pitched 12.2 combined innings during the final weeks of the 2021 regular season. He recorded a 2.84 ERA, with 20 strikeouts versus just seven walks.

Once again though, any enthusiasm was dampened by more injury complications, as Pearson missed all of 2022 with a lat strain. As a result, he began the current season in Triple-A Buffalo.

The Odessa, Florida native soon showed he was ready for another opportunity in the majors. He allowed just five hits and two runs over 8.1 combined innings in eight appearances for the Bisons, striking out 16 batters and walking just five in the process.

Back to the Majors

Pearson got his chance when the Blue Jays called him up on Apr. 24. In his first appearance versus the White Sox he pitched a clean inning, with no hits, walks or runs.

Pearson was even better in his next outing, against the Red Sox. He allowed just one hit, no walks or runs in two innings, causing seven missed swings and three strikeouts in the process.

And really, the righty hasn't looked back since. He is now enjoying his best spell in the Majors to date and the Blue Jays are benefiting as a result.

As of June 1, Pearson has recorded a 1.69 ERA and 1.000 WHIP in 16.0 innings spread over 12 appearances out of the bullpen. He is well on course to easily set career-bests in all of these categories.

The beauty for the Blue Jays is that Pearson is continuing to improve, as highlighted by his latest appearance on Tuesday versus the Brewers. In his best outing yet this year, he allowed no hits, walks or runs, while striking out a season-best four batters.

Keys to Pearson's improvement

Key to Pearson's play is not just relying on his fastball as much, even though it is as good as ever. (He has seen it exceed 100 mph at times this season.) As per Nick Ashborne of yahoo!sports, he has increased the usage of his curveball and slider to positive results.

Ashborne in particular notes the effectiveness of Pearson's curveball. Its movement is eight percent better than the Major League average vertically and 38 percent better horizontally.

Another key to the Central Florida college alumni's success, is just staying healthy. As of Friday morning he has been on the Blue Jays' roster for 40 consecutive days - while this may not seem particularly noteworthy, it still represents the longest run yet of his Major League career.

One finally factor to consider, is Pearson's previous inconsistency with his location. This also now appears to be an issue of the past, with a prime example being his 2.8 walk-rate per nine innings so far this year.

It's funny how adversity can often ultimately lead to being in a better position. Pearson may no longer be on course to be a staff ace, but at long last, the Blue Jays are seeing what he is capable of.