Sadly for Jays’ fans, it appears that the Nate Pearson express hype train has left the Dominican Winter League.
So, what did we learn from this ride? Well first off, the 26-year-old righty stayed healthy throughout his brief time with the Tigres del Licey.
He only pitched 12 innings, but Pearson was untouchable. He didn’t allow a single earned run, he only allowed five hits, and he only walked four (it should’ve been three). What made him dominant, however, was the fact he struck out 16 (should’ve been 17) facing just 44 batters.
That gave him a 36.4 K%, while having a solid BB% of 9.1%. Not just that, but Pearson hit 100 mph on at least one occasion, and both his slider and curveball generated a ton of whiffs.
Speaking of whiffs, Pearson finished with a Whiff % (swings and misses divided by total swings) of 45.24%, which is a truly absurd number. He also had a Called Strike + Whiffs % of 38.20%, which yeah, is insane.
This is a reminder that Pearson is a dominant pitcher when healthy, but a big question is what happens next year if he can stay on the field. The hard-throwing right-hander has two option years remaining, meaning the Jays could option him to the minors five times before he has to be outrighted.
The Jays’ bullpen at the moment is pretty full at the moment, with Jordan Romano, Anthony Bass, Yimi García, Tim Mayza, and Adam Cimber all getting permanent spots if they aren’t traded. Trevor Richards, Mitch White, and Julian Merryweather are all out of options, while Kikuchi may or may end up pitching in relief.
This doesn’t include any potential signings; one would figure there’d be at least one García-esque signing. This is to say that despite deserving an opportunity to pitch for the big league team, it may not come immediately at the start of the season (and the same goes for Zach Pop.)
Not just that, but would Pearson pitch in relief, as a bulk reliever, or as a starter? I think the train left the station on the latter, but the plan before for Pearson before he contracted mononucleosis was to pitch multiple innings. The same plan could be in place for 2023.
Pearson pitched as a high-leverage, one-inning reliever with Licey, so it’s possible that this is the plan for the organization moving forward.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.