Projecting the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays: Nate Pearson

Nate Pearson, photo credit: Kristin Basnett

For our next 2020 projection, I wanted to go a little further afield. Let’s try to analyze how the young, hard-throwing righty Nate Pearson might do in his rookie campaign in 2020.


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While all of the other players I’ve looked at so far have had MLB track records, it will be a little more difficult to figure out how Pearson might fare and my guess will be just that, more of a guess.



Pearson’s reputation is becoming legendary, mostly built on his fastball which has hit 104 mph in the Arizona Fall League and, apparently, 105 mph in a side session. But what else does Pearson have? He’s got a slider, a changeup and a curveball, all of which are being given the potential of being average or better at the major league level. Baseball Reference, in ranking him the Blue Jays’ top prospect going into 2020, noted that his slider has taken a big leap forward, calling it “a legitimate out pitch” while his changeup is “a legitimate third weapon” while the curveball is more of a show-me pitch right now.


So let’s talk numbers. The Blue Jays restricted Pearson’s workload in 2019, seeing that he didn’t pitch much after breaking his arm on a line drive back through the box. Pearson threw 21 innings in Dunedin, striking out 35 and walking three while posting a 0.86 ERA. He pitched 62 2/3 innings in New Hampshire with a 2.59 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, striking out 69 and walking 21 and in 18 innings in Buffalo, he had a 3.00 ERA with a 0.83 WHIP, striking out 15 and walking three. He did see a significant drop in strikeout rate at each level, going from 46.7% in Dunedin to 28.3% in New Hampshire to 21.7% in Buffalo. His walk rate fluctuated but even at its highest rate, in New Hampshire, it was still well within a solid range for a power pitcher like Pearson.


Pearson was particularly impressive in his debut for Buffalo, throwing seven scoreless innings, striking out three without walking anyone and he struck out seven in six innings with two runs on two hits allowed in his second outing. His third (and final) appearance was a bit more of a struggled despite the fact that it was then that he picked up his first Triple-A win. He allowed four runs on seven hits (including a home run) with three walks and five strikeouts in five innings against the Yankees’ Triple-A club, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.


Steamer has projected 4.98 ERA, 5.01 FIP and 4.96 xFIP over just one inning (although I’m not sure how those numbers actually work with one projected inning). They also predict a 21.4% strikeout rate and a 7.9% walk rate.

My prediction is going to depend on when Pearson gets to the majors. There’s one theory that, in order to control his innings a bit and enable him to pitch deep into September, the Jays will have Pearson start his build up to the season later and have him join the Buffalo Bisons in early May. This would also shield the Blue Jays somewhat from criticisms of service-time manipulation which dogged them about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. last year (until he injured his oblique).

If that’s the case, I think Pearson arrives in the big leagues after the All-Star break and throws 82 innings with the Blue Jays (probably giving him about 140 for the year). I think he’ll post an ERA of 3.86 with a WHIP around 1.32, striking out 22.7% and walking 8.2%. Basically, I think he’ll be better than what Steamer says, but won’t be the ace that we believe he will be just yet. That’ll come in 2021.


What do you think about Pearson’s 2020?


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