logo image

Nate Pearson Make a Positive Impression in Vancouver

The Vancouver Canadians have not allowed a run thus far in September. Think about that for a second, that’s 32 consecutive shutout innings! What does this tell in advance of tonight’s Northwest League North division opener? Probably nothing, given how bad Tri-City’s offence was to finish the season. But with the Blue Jays 2017 1st round pick (28th overall) Nate Pearson going in the opener I’m willing to wager that Spokane will struggle to score runs as the C’s look to make a flying start after having game one postponed due to smoke.

I managed to catch Pearson’s last two home starts mixing in a conversation with C’s pitching coach Jim Czajkowski in the middle. What follows are my observations. As I’ve stressed in the past, I’m not  a scout and I can get a bit effusive in praise when I fall in love with someone (see Castro, Miguel) but to say Pearson got off on the right foot with me would be a mild understatement. His first 7 pitches of the game on the 13th of August vs. the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes were all fastballs, all strikes (not only that, they all hit the spot), and all but one were clocked in at 99 mph. With the ‘laggard’ coming at 98 mph. A couple of balls were mixed in after that but it didn’t stop Nate the Great from striking out the side. Impressive to say the least.

There were no breaking balls in the 1st, a pattern repeated the second time I saw him, although there was one change-up at 92mph (92!!). As Czajkowski noted afterwards, the problem with guys in the lower levels that throw so hard — and he compared Pearson to Aaron Sanchez who he had in New Hampshire — is that “these young kids are trying to gear up for a 100mph fastball and you give them 91/92 and that’s something they can hit. It’ll be easier to get big league hitters out with the change when they’re gearing up for 100, as the differential will mean something, so he has to keep throwing it.”

Czaj’s comments were oddly prescient as the next time I saw him, on the 30th of August vs. the Boise Hawks, the first run Pearson gave up all season was kicked off by a double down the left field line — not hit particularly hard mind — on an 87 mph change. The other two hits he gave up on the day were singles. Both were off 96 mph fastballs, one was solid contact up the middle, while the second was a flare over the 2nd basemen’s head. Mix in the three walks on the day, which Nat pressbox rookie (and all round good guy) @Clutchlings77 noted was possibly down to some inconsistent umpiring, and this is really the first bit of adversity the Central Florida Community College alum had faced since turning pro.

Again, my chat with pitching coach Czajkowski in between the two outings had a tinge of foreshadowing as, responding to the question of where Pearson stacks up against some of the other notable arms he’d seen in Vancouver (and elsewhere), he couldn’t answer fully as “I really don’t know a pitcher until I see him fail and he hasn’t failed yet. Everything I’ve seen so far has been a positive. His stuff, quality of pitches, all that is a positive. I’ll know more about his character when he fails. How they act when they come off the field after struggling will tell me more about his character than his pitchability. But, the stuff that comes out of his arm is special.”

Now, I’m not calling 2 earned over 3 innings with 5 Ks mixed in a ‘failure’. But it was his highest pitch count of the season and he didn’t use them particularly efficiently. How he bounces back against Spokane will be interesting. Given he has been throwing since January, he must be running on fumes. Hopefully adrenaline and a raucous Vancouver crowd will help mitigate the fatigue.

Regarding the stuff. At 6’6″ and 245 pounds, Pearson generates some serious down plane on his fastball. It’s a 4-seamer so doesn’t move a ton but his ability to spot it on both sides of the place — and the fact it’s so fucking fast — makes it a plus offering. I wouldn’t say he throws ‘easy gas’ but nor does his delivery look forced.

As mentioned above, his change sits in the upper 80s low 90s. There did look to be some decent arm side movement but those observations were from above. Not ideal for tracking movement. I was charting the second outing and I counted 5 sliders, all in the 85-87 mph range and all were taken for balls. That jives with what I saw the first time. He tends to miss down and away with that pitch.

Pearson’s curve is more around the zone. Coming in around 77-79 mph, Nate will throw it to both sides of the plate. Again, my view didn’t really allow for a proper assessment of the break but the batter’s reactions were telling. Where they were seemingly spitting on the slider the curve got more positive reactions….i.e. knees buckling, backs bending, etc.

Tonight should be interesting. I’m assuming (without speaking to anyone) that the pitch count will be the highest of the season, probably somewhere in the 80 range. How they are used will be telling. Does he still to the routine of just fastballs in the first inning before mixing in the breaking stuff later? Or will he look to get Spokane off balance early.

Make sure to follow the twitter machine for updates.

Leave a Reply