Big league hitters need to get ready for Nate Pearson’s triple-digit heat

Blue Jays RHP prospect Nate Pearson can throw over 100 mph and dominate even big league hitters, something he did on Tuesday in his spring debut

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Nate Pearson is six-foot-six of unadulterated fury.

His fastball consistently hovers around 100 mph and has even reached 104 on the radar gun. His slider can get into the low-90s. And, to make it that much more difficult for the batter who has to face him, he mixes in a changeup that vastly improved over the past season.

These attributes have the 23-year-old right-hander and former first-round pick on the cusp of the big leagues.

Pearson showed off what he can do on Tuesday afternoon in Dunedin when he made his spring training debut for the Blue Jays. He faced three New York Yankees hitters, Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar, and Mike Tauchman, who have a combined 1,200 Major League plate appearances. He struck out all three in his one inning of work, leaving the fans at newly-renovated TD Ballpark gasping at what they just witnessed.

Pearson will likely begin the 2020 season in the minors but will almost certainly make his Major League debut at some point this year, provided he stays healthy. And staying off the injury list is something he’s struggled with at times. He missed most of 2018 after fracturing his forearm on a line drive back to the mound, pushing back his development a full season.

Pearson, though, came back stronger than ever in 2019. He began the year at Single-A Dunedin and struck out 15 batters per nine innings in six starts. His 0.86 ERA was the best of any pitcher with at least that many starts, better even than the No. 1 ranked right-handed prospect, Casey Mize. In 16 starts at Double-A New Hampshire, he struck out 9.9 per nine innings and had a 2.59 ERA, marks that would’ve ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the Eastern League if he had enough innings to qualify.

Called up to Triple-A Buffalo in August, in his debut against Rochester he held a lineup that included former big leaguers like Ronald Torreyes, Wilin Rosario, and Brandon Barnes to three hits over seven shutout innings. Opponents hit .176 against him across three Minor League levels, the eighth-best mark among pitchers with at least 100 innings. His 0.89 WHIP was the third-lowest in the minors in 2019.

The Blue Jays already had a highly-touted hitter in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. storm his way through the minors and make his much-anticipated Major League debut. Pearson has the organization just as excited, only this time on the mound. He enters the season ranked as the eighth-best prospect (No. 2 behind Mize among right-handed pitchers) according to MLB Pipeline, who gives his fastball a perfect 80/80 rating. The Athletic’s Keith Law puts him at 11th on his list of baseball’s top prospects.

His fastball is already Major League-caliber. In 2019, only Noah Syndergaard and Gerrit Cole averaged over 97 mph among starters. Pearson throws harder than both of them and is just beginning to tap into his potential. He also has impeccable control for such a hard thrower, walking only 27 batters in 101.2 innings last season.

The three Yankees who stepped to the plate on Tuesday are the first big leaguers to realize facing Pearson is no fun. The rest of them better get ready, because the tall right-hander with the game’s best fastball is on a track straight to the Majors sooner rather than later.

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