Nate Pearson: Blue Jays 2019 Minor League Player Of The Year

In mapping out a development plan for Nate Pearson this season, the Blue Jays were forced to balance a pair of conflicting needs. 

On one hand, the 23-year-old’s triple-digit fastball make him the type of pitching prospect teams are tempted to push, ensuring that he’s sufficiently challenged at each stop he makes. On the other, the intercostal strain and forearm fracture that limited him to only 22 innings last year meant the Blue Jays had to pump the brakes on how much he threw, while also not getting in the way of his development.

In 2019, through a combined 22 starts at high Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire, the 28th overall pick in 2017 managed to check all the boxes, earning a late-season promotion to Triple-A Buffalo that has him on the cusp on the big leagues. Pearson was able to pitch throughout the season thanks to a plan that alternated five-inning and two-inning starts for most of the year.

Through his first 23 starts, which includes his Triple-A debut on Aug. 20, Pearson accumulated a 4-4, 1.99 record with 107 strikeouts and 24 walks in 90.2 innings.

“It was important to be smart about Nate’s workload increase this season,” Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim said. “So before the season started (pitching co-ordinator) Jeff Ware, along with our medical staff, brainstormed different options that were then presented to Nate.

“He ultimately chose to go with alternating the 5/2 for the first half, and as we assessed strength and fatigue levels throughout the season, we felt that he was in a good position to gradually increase that workload throughout the second half.”

Getting him through the season was only part of the task.

With the help of Driveline, as well as Rapsodo and Edgertronic feedback, Pearson worked tirelessly toward improving his slider, eventually slowing the pitch down a tick while adding a bit more depth. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound righthander also adjusted his delivery last year in the Arizona Fall League, now pitching exclusively out of the stretch, which has helped improve his fastball command and cut down his walk rate, according to Kim.

Pearson will finish the year well positioned to be a high-impact callup in 2020, the same way infielders Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio were for the Blue Jays in 2019.

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