It’s never wise to get too excited over a few spring outings. But already hyped Blue Jays prospect Nate Pearson has been awfully impressive, racking up six strikeouts in three hitless innings while pumping triple-digit heat. Suppose he keeps this up?
Toronto GM Ross Atkins faced the question today: is there any chance that Pearson shows so much that he cracks the Opening Day roster? As Arden Zwelling of the Sportsnet.ca tweets, Atkins didn’t exactly offer a direct answer to that question … though his words certainly suggested that the club is not likely to deviate from its pre-spring plan.
Per Atkins, the Jays “are entirely focused on [Pearson’s] development. And a big part of his development is ensuring he has ever chance to increase that workload in a logical and smart way.”
That’s a nod to the fact that Pearson, one of the game’s very best pitching prospects, has still not thrown more than 101 2/3 innings in a professional campaign owing to an injury-busted 2018 season. And he only made it to Triple-A for three starts.
The Atkins comment may be oblique, but it seems there’s only one reasonable interpretation. If Pearson still requires “development” and a planned-out workload expansion, he’s not going to be considered for an Opening Day gig. As Zwelling wrote recently, the original plan was for Pearson to open at Triple-A. Nothing about what Atkins said today suggests any other outcome.
We have seen teams take differing approaches to situations such as this. Quite a few organizations have declined to change their plans even after watching a breakout Spring Training from a top prospect, resisting the allure in favor of service-time and other considerations. See, e.g., the Cubs and Kris Bryant. But that’s not an inevitable outcome. Last season, the Padres decided to carry Fernando Tatis Jr. north out of camp. Seven years ago, the dearly departed Jose Fernandez forced the Marlins’ hands.
In this case, fans that pine for a bold decision from the Blue Jays front office are almost certain to be disappointed — at least in the short run. The Jays did make some long-awaited rotation additions over the winter, so it’s not as if there’s a glaring hole in the staff at the moment. If circumstances warrant, it stands to reason that Pearson could push into the MLB picture later this year. In the meantime, Toronto fans will have to hope that the patience pays off — all while enjoying some of the other intriguing young players on the roster.