(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - Former Vancouver Canadians RHP Nate Pearson had himself a pretty good 2017 when you think that the year started with him pitching at a junior college in Florida and ended with him rated as the #3 prospect within the entire Toronto Blue Jays organization and over a million dollars in his pocket.
It's been a few months since Pearson, the soft-spoken 6' 6" bohemeth last took to the mound here in Vancouver but the praise continues to shower down on the Floridian as even Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins has been quick to suggest the upside could be significant.
"It's unusual for someone to be, I don't like the word 'gifted', but as talented as he is, so strong, so powerful and has the tactical and technical attributes to be elite," said Atkins. "It's rare."
Pearson dazzled while with the Canadians and not just statistically. Pearson was a modest 0-0, 0.90 over his eight outings with Vancouver adding 24 strikeouts and just five walks in 19 powerful innings. His magnetism came from both his stature and his velocity that had fans immediately looking to the outfield radar gun reading after every pitch which regularly read '00' or '01'. The two-digit radar gun reading doesn't allow to show that Pearson was clocking his fastball at 101mph but fans knew and marvelled that the C's had this kind of a weapon leading them toward a Northwest League Championship.
2018 will present a new set of challenges for Pearson who now has the weight of a nation-wide expectation to develop as Blue Jays fans from coast-to-coast all want to see Toronto's "next big thing" as Baseball America and mlb.com both rank him among the best in Minor League Baseball after just one professional season. His body was a little soft and he was coming off just shy of 100 innings for 2017 if you combine school and Vancouver, so there is work to do to see if he has matured physically and can handle the increased rigors of a 144-game season that will likely see him pitch to around 120-135 innings if all goes well.
Selected with the #28 pick in the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, his immediate comparison is alongside former Toronto prospect RHP Noah Syndergaard who was taken with the 38th overall pick back in 2010 and eventually was traded to the New York Mets along with OF Wuilmer Becerra, C John Buck and C Travis D'Arnaud for RHP RA Dickey, C Mike Nickeas and C Josh Thole. The size, velocity and projection are similar, but some think of another former Blue Jays arm when they look at Pearson, Roy Halladay.
Pearson is the second straight 1st rounder taken by the Blue Jays to come with that comparable as RHP T.J. Zeuch also has drawn that high praise and if this ends up being the case then help is on the way for a Toronto team that must look to bolster a rotation that could look much different in a few years should RHP Aaron Sanchez and RHP Marcus Stroman choose to test free agency.
Zeuch might have more polish as the former University of Pitt standout looks ready to start the season with former Vancouver Canadians manager John Schneider at Double-A New Hampshire and maybe beyond by season's end. Pearson should start the season in Lansing (Midwest) but could be designated to Dunedin which is just a few hours from Pearson's home while giving the Blue Jays executive a closer look at the hulking prospect.
Wherever he starts, Pearson will continue to draw the attention of everyone within Blue Jays Nation from top to bottom as his star power is undeniable. Should he stay healthy, focused and build on his season with the Canadians - there is no doubt that there will be 20 or so other teams that wish they had used one of their picks on Pearson just a few months back.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.