After last appearing in the majors in the 2021 season finale, Nate Pearson has once again found himself on the Toronto Blue Jays roster.
With Adam Cimber hitting the IL with a right rhomboid strain, the former top prospect will have a chance to carve out a role in Toronto's bullpen. Pearson has dealt with a myriad of injuries in recent seasons — and hasn't performed particularly well as a starter above the Double-A level — but there's still reason to believe he can make a big impact as a reliever.
When the Blue Jays last deployed him out of the bullpen in 2021, he produced a 2.84 ERA in 12.2 innings down the stretch with an eye-popping 20 strikeouts. With the ability to throw his four-seamer at max effort, he averaged 98.5 mph on his fastball.
The big-time heater that got him so much attention when he arrived on the scene as a prospect has not deserted him, as he was pumping triple digits during spring training.
We only have small samples of Pearson's work since the end of the 2022 season, but a consistent theme is that he's been missing bats, keeping runs off the board, and walking more hitters than he'd like.
That's going to be the book on Pearson until further notice. He has top-notch velocity that he can convert into whiffs, but his command is inconsistent.
In a relief role, that set of characteristics is expected, and less of an issue than it would be out of the rotation. While it's unclear precisely how manager John Schneider will choose to deploy Pearson, the door is open for him to work his way up the pecking order.
The Blue Jays' bullpen ranks 22nd in the majors in fWAR (0.2) and 20th in ERA (4.35). Notably, its average velocity also ranks 25th (92.6 mph), although that number is skewed by Cimber's unorthodox submarining (84.7 mph). It has also received disappointing performances from high-leverage right-handers Anthony Bass (7.36 ERA) and Yimi Garcia (7.20 ERA).
Pearson's health and effectiveness have been notoriously difficult to project in the past, but the man who's made Baseball America's top 100 prospect lists five times has another opportunity to thrive at the MLB level.