Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Season Preview: RHP Nate Pearson
Next up in our 2023 Toronto Blue Jays season preview series is reliever Nate Pearson.
Addison Barger, Anthony Bass, Chris Bassitt, Brandon Belt, José Berríos, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Matt Chapman, Adam Cimber, Hagen Danner, Santiago Espinal, Matt Gage, Yimi García, Kevin Gausman, Chad Green, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Thomas Hatch, Spencer Horwitz, Danny Jansen, Leo Jimenez, Kevin Kiermaier, Yusei Kikuchi, Alejandro Kirk, Otto Lopez, Nathan Lukes, Alek Manoah, Orelvis Martinez, Tim Mayza, Whit Merrifield
Here's a quick refresher on the projection systems we will be taking into account and their predictions for Pearson's upcoming season.
STEAMER: 49 G, 4-4 record, 0 SV, 4.03 ERA, 79 SO and 31 BB in 71 innings
ZiPS DC: 49 G, 4-4 record, 0 SV, 4.41 ERA, 73 SO and 28 BB in 63 innings
THE BAT: 41 G, 3-2 record, 0 SV, 3.74 ERA, 67 SO and 23 BB in 61 innings
2022 stats (A, AAA): 13 G, 2-1 record, 3.52 ERA, 19 SO and 8 BB in 15.1 innings
Note: ZiPS DC projections are pro-rated for the playing time indicated by Roster Resource Depth Charts on FanGraphs.
Pearson, 26, comes into 2023 hoping to stay healthy and secure a big-league job. And by all accounts, he looks good so far, so it might be time for Jays fans to hop back on the Nate Pearson hype train.
With a healthy offseason and a stint in the Dominican Winter League under his belt, the once-promising top prospect will have to show the Jays that he deserves a spot in the Toronto bullpen. Seeing that he looked good in his Winter League outings was promising. He tossed 12 relief innings, striking out 16 with zero earned runs. So that's a start.
Despite currently being projected by Roster Resource to start the season in Triple-A Buffalo, the projections all think that Pearson will pitch in the majors this season in a multiple-inning relief role. They see him getting anywhere from 61 to 71 innings, which would be good news for the Jays.
When he last pitched in the majors in 2021, his fastball averaged 97.8 mph, which put him in the 98th percentile in the league, according to Statcast.
All three projections have him logging over a strikeout per inning, and with his blazing 4-seamer, you could easily imagine a higher rate. In his 11 relief appearances in 2021, he carried a 14.21 K/9. For reference, that placed him 13th among relievers, right behind former Blue Jay Liam Hendriks.
The Jays could use more high-velocity, swing-and-miss stuff in the bullpen. Pearson's fastball would put him at the top of the relief corps in fastball velocity, just edging out Jordan Romano.
Here's his pitch arsenal from his 15 innings in 2021:
The 6-foot-6 righty also features a slider that sits 10 mph slower than his fastball. He has a curve and changeup but used them exclusively during his lone start in 2021. Coming out of the bullpen, he'll continue to rely on a two-pitch mix.
There's a very real chance that Pearson makes the team out of Spring Training with a strong showing. But he still has much to prove between now and then.
The sooner he gets the call to The Show, the better, as a healthy Nate Pearson will make the Jays' 2023 bullpen that much deeper.