Fallen Blue Jays first-round pick is making Statcast waves this spring with new pitch

Nate Pearson has added a new weapon to his arsenal during spring training, as he attempts to finally get his Blue Jays career on track.

Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

Last season, it finally seemed Nate Pearson was set to fulfil the potential which saw the Blue Jays select him the first round of the 2017 draft. Yes it was as a reliever rather than as a starter, but it was still a significant positive.

During his first 17 appearances of the 2023 season, Pearson produced a 1.96 ERA, 26 strikeouts and a 0.91 WHIP in 23.0 combined innings. He was proving to be an invaluable member of the Blue Jays' bullpen.

However, as had been the case before, this proved to once again be fools gold from the 27-year-old. A nightmarish 16-game spell which resulted in a horrific 9.53 ERA and 1.650 WHIP in 17 combined innings, saw him sent down to the minors.

Even allowing for a two-game cameo in September where Pearson allowed no earned runs in 2.2 innings, it was essentially back to the drawing board. What were the Blue Jays going to do with a player who does not become an unrestricted free agent until 2027?

So what now for Pearson?

There was some suggestion the Blue Jays should consider trading the righty, with the theory that maybe he just needed to start over with a new organisation. Instead, he remains on the 40-man roster and is in Dunedin for spring training.

In this respect, spring training is the best place for players to make adjustments and/or try something new, which is exactly what Pearson is doing. As per David Adler of MLB.com, he revealed a new splitter in his first Grapefruit League appearance of 2024:

The splitter was recorded at 87 mph and certainly it looked impressive in striking out the Phillies' David Dahl. However, whether it's something Pearson can utilize successfully and consistently, remains to be seen.

The reason behind Pearson's decision to introduce the splitter, was down to feeling like he was tipping his pitches too much last year. As per Keegan Matheson of MLB.com, he said: "A big thing for me that I didn’t really notice, but they noticed here, was that I was tipping a lot last year. I’m changing my glove position this year. I’ll be a little more up to my chest and close to my body. I was down here [by my belt] and then I’d come up. I would tip when I’d come up."

Helping motivate the Odessa, Florida native, is the success the splitter has provided for two of his teammates. He said: "I’ve been in the bullpen watching [Erik Swanson] throw his all the time, seeing guys just not be able to touch it. It’s just baffling guys. Then, obviously [Kevin] Gausman, he’s such an outlier with his and throws his in such a unique way. It’s hard to even try to do what he’s doing. I just want to test it out and see how it goes. I like where it’s at right now."

Still struggling

Despite the addition of the splitter, the fact remains Pearson is not off to the best of starts in spring training, even allowing for this being a time when no one is ever usually going to be at their best. In his first three appearances he has allowed five hits, four earned runs and a walk in just 2.2 combined innings.

At some point, upside potential turns into untapped talent if a player does not get their act together. It's up to Pearson now, to show he's not going to become yet another example of someone who wasted their opportunity to have a successful career.

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This is where the splitter potentially comes in, along with having more consistency with the slider. If Pearson can find a way to successfully combine these with a fourseam fastball which flirts with triple figures, he still has a chance not to turn into a draft bust in Toronto.