When the Jays let Edwin Encarnacion walk this past off-season, the Jays received a compensation pick. That compensatory selection was the 28th selection in the 2017 MLB draft, where the Blue Jays drafted RHP Nate Pearson.
Pearson was drafted out of junior college, after not getting drafted out of high school, something Pearson thought was going to happen. “Out of high school, it was a possibility (that I was going to get drafted.)” Said Pearson in a recent phone interview. “But I kind of knew for the most part that I was going to college. Just cause I knew I wasn’t ready for the minors yet.”
After going undrafted Pearson decided to head to Florida International University (FIU). In his freshman season at FIU, Pearson appeared in 19 games where he spent most of his time as a reliever, making just one start. Pearson finished 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 33 strikeouts. However, after just one season at FIU, Pearson transferred to the College of Central Florida a Junior College. Many questioned why, but for Pearson the answer was simple. “I left because the fit wasn’t good for me. And being down in Miami, being away from home, it just wasn’t a good fit for me. I wanted to do something about it so I did. I went JUCO, and moved a little bit closer to home and never looked back.” Pearson became a starter, and finished the year with 13 starts, a 5-2 record, 1.56 ERA, and 118 strikeouts in 81 innings. With that season Pearson was named the JUCO pitcher of the year.
After being the best JUCO pitcher in the nation, and being able to throw 100 miles per hour, Pearson’s stock quickly started to rise. Many pegged Pearson as a second round pick, but after more and more teams started showing interest it was very likely he would be a 1st round pick, something his agent told him, “My agent had an overall projection for me. But I didn’t put too much thought into where I would go. I knew there was a good chance for me to go decently high, and it was gonna be a good chance for me to sign, and I was just going to be ready. It ended up working out and I’m glad as I ended up here.”
When the Blue Jays drafted Pearson there was a person at his draft party who was wearing a Blue Jays jersey. It sparked a lot of conversation, that the Jays and Pearson already had a deal made before the draft, However, according to Pearson that is not the case. “Oh no, I knew they were one of the teams interested but that was my friend. He is a big Toronto Blue Jays fans, so he just wore it just hoping I’d get drafted to them and I guess it worked out for him.” A deal did get done with the Jays pretty quickly just 16 days after the draft in which he signed for $2.45 million.
After being drafted and signed many believed the 6-foot-6 240-pound pitcher could reach the majors quickly with his 100 miles per hour fastball. But reaching the majors quick for Pearson would mean becoming a reliever, something Pearson may not want to do, as he left FIU because he wasn’t starting. However, it appears Pearson would be up for whatever the Jays need. “I’d like to be a starter but then again, whatever the Blue Jays need me to do, whatever gets me there quicker. Wherever they think is the best option I’m here for them to use me.” Said Pearson. “I’m not gonna put a goal or time frame on myself. You never know what is going to happen, but I’m just going to keep on working hard every day, and hopefully get there when I get there.”
Many believe he will become a reliever given that his fastball is dominant and not many know about his other pitches. However, Pearson’s changeup is a very good 2nd pitch. “Probably my change up, my changeup is my second best pitch. Being a hard thrower not many people have a changeup and I’ve been told my changeups been pretty good, and it is effective. It helps me get deep into games, and it gets the hitters off my fastball so it is really effective.”
Still only having two solid pitches will limit him as a starter, so working on his breaking balls is something of importance to Pearson. “Yeah, it is probably the leading thing I need to work on. It has come along way from where it was a couple of years ago. Hopefully, it just keeps getting better and better and makes me a complete pitcher.” If Pearson can work on his breaking pitches along with his changeup and fastball, it may keep Pearson as a starter moving forward.
Pearson is playing with the Vancouver Canadians where as of July 31st, he’s had two starts. He already has pitched his college season, so he has pitched quite a bit this season. Pearson has looked good, a lot of draftees struggle early when they turn pro. “For me, it has been a pretty smooth adjustment as I’m playing with a bunch of college guys on my team. Most of the guys are my age, and the competition just keeps on getting better, can’t be making any more mistakes and get away with it, than college. So you're playing against the best of the best from their college teams, so it’s a lot of fun as well, but it’s been a pretty easy adjustment for me.”
Pearson, in four innings pitched, has a 0.00 ERA, 0.25 WHIP, and 5 strikeouts. Pearson has been compared to Nolan Ryan. “Well ever since I’ve been able to throw hard, I’ve been looked at like Nolan Ryan, as an idol or a player I model my game after. But there will never be another Nolan Ryan, but I just look up to him and model my game after him.”
Pearson will continue to work in Vancouver for this this season, but is one of the best Jays prospects. On July 31st, Pearson was ranked as the Jays 8th best prospect, by MLB.com. For now, it is just working through the minor leagues for Pearson, and when the time comes for the majors he’ll be ready.