Jays Take Central Florida RHP Nate Pearson With Their Second Pick (28th Overall)!

And with the 28th pick in the 2017 MLB Draft — the pick they received as compensation for losing Edwin Encarnacion this winter — the Blue Jays select Central Florida right-hander Nate Pearson! The guy who somebody reportedly made a deal with prior to the draft!

He’s a right-hander and hit 102 on the radar gun in a bullpen session a little over a week ago. THAT’LL DO!

“Off-speed arsenal leaves a lot to be desired, though,” the TV broadcast says. And… wait… what was that about a pin in his elbow? Also, he’s A guy who could get to a big league bullpen quickly? Hmmmm…

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As I did with the Jays’ top pick, shortstop Logan Warmoth, here we have some quick Twitter reaction before we dive a little deeper:

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Keith Law had Pearson at 28th, saying that he liked him because of the fastball but that the secondary stuff is obviously an issue, and that he “has a little ways to go to prove he’s a starter,” but there were other sources that liked him quite a bit better. Baseball America, for example, had him as the number 13 prospect on their board.

“Pearson has held on to the title of top JuCo arm for the duration of the spring, showing consistently impressive stuff throughout his sophomore season and recently topping out at 102 mph with the fastball during a pre-draft bullpen session,” explain Nick J. Faleris and Burke Granger of 2080 Baseball, where Pearson was listed among their “top talents” at RHP, sixth down from the top (though they don’t officially call these rankings). “The burly right hander backs-up his big heat with a hard slider and can also mix in a fringy changeup and curveball.”

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“Five months ago Pearson was projected as a third round pick but his velocity increase, excellent spring and his continued good health have boosted his stock. Teams who view him as a starting pitcher will be tempted to take him in the first round,” explains John Sickels of Minor League Ball.

Keith Law said in his final mock draft that “a lot of folks think Pearson already has a deal with a team picking somewhere in the 20s — he declined to work out for a team below this spot — and Toronto is the most common suspect.” Much like they did last year with Bo Bichette, it seems entirely possible that the Jays have done some amount of handshake wheeling and dealing before the draft.

That kind of thing happens a lot, and I would suspect that this isn’t so much what the Bichette thing was. For one thing, Pearson doesn’t have the same kind of leverage — he doesn’t have a college commitment to fall back on if he doesn’t sign, and while I know nothing of his family situation, there aren’t a lot of picks who could turn down first round bonus money as easily as a kid whose dad made millions during his career. Presumably. For two, it was probably just a “if you’re there, we’ll take you and we’ll sign you at this price,” kind of thing. A little bit of cost certainty.

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Works for me! And probably helps a club plan out what they do elsewhere. Whatever it means, it would obviously seem as though the Jays quite like him, which probably suggests that he’s not going to be zooming his way into the big league bullpen just yet.

On the other hand, he’s already thrown 81 innings this season for Central Florida, so maybe some minor league starts and then a big league cameo in the ‘pen would put him right where you want to see him in terms of building his arm up as he goes into 2018 looking to start.

On the other other hand, let’s not go nuts.

FanGraphs goes farther than most and says he’s “very likely” to end up in the bullpen, but y’know what? He can be pretty damned valuable as a reliever throwing 102. Not a horrible worst case scenario — even for a first round pick.

In Baseball America’s pick-by-pick analysis we’re told that “scouts have compared him to Carl Pavano because of his size, athleticism and potent fastball-changeup combo.” Uh… OK!