There might not be two finer right-handed pitching prospects in baseball than the Blue Jays’ Nate Pearson and the Tigers’ Casey Mize. At least a few notable prospect outlets essentially have the pair neck and neck. Baseball America ranks Pearson as the game’s seventh-best farmhand and has Mize at No. 13. FanGraphs puts Pearson at No. 8, Mize 16th. And MLB.com slightly favors Mize, rating him seventh and Pearson eighth.
Between the two, Pearson seems to be closer to making his major league debut. The 23-year-old, whom the Blue Jays chose 28th in the 2017 draft, dazzled in spring training before the game shut down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Pearson fired seven innings of one-run, two-hit ball with 11 strikeouts and three walks, flashing triple-digit heat along the way. Carving up the competition isn’t anything new for the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Pearson, who just last season combined for a 2.30 ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 and averaged 97 mph on his fastball in 101 2/3 innings divided among the High-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels. It was the first extensive pro year for Pearson, who tossed a meager 1 2/3 frames in 2018 as he dealt with a back injury and a fractured ulna.
Whether Pearson will be handle a starter’s workload over the long haul is one of the few questions surrounding him. He only averaged a little over four innings per appearance in 2019, and Baseball America writes, “The fact that Pearson throws with so much velocity on every fastball also gives some scouts concerns about whether that’s a durability risk.” If Pearson can hold up, though, he clearly has the potential to evolve into a front-line starter at the MLB level.
Mize, 22, has ace upside in his own right. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft and has lived up to the billing in the minors thus far. Mize doesn’t throw as hard as Pearson (his typical fastball clocked in at 93 mph in ’19), but he was just about untouchable last year in High-A (0.88 ERA over 30 2/3 innings) before earning a promotion to Double-A. Mize continued to wow at the second-highest level of the minors, where he recorded a 3.20 ERA and 8.69 K/9 against 2.06 BB/9 in 15 starts and 78 2/3 frames; however, Mize did miss a few weeks with shoulder inflammation, and the Tigers put an early end to his season to preserve him for future years. He returned during the spring with four innings of three-hit, two-run pitching, notching six strikeouts and a pair of walks.
If health doesn’t fail either of these hurlers in the coming seasons, baseball fans could be treated to another couple of electrifying arms. Which of the two would you take as a building block? (Poll link for app users)