Pearson, 24, has been one of the organization’s most sought-after prospects for the past four years. Selected with the No.28 pick in 2017, Pearson dominated in 2019 to the point where he was not only considered the Blue Jays’ best pitching prospect, but also one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. Baseball America, MLB.com, and FanGraphs all ranked Pearson among the sport’s top ten minor leaguers heading into the 2020 campaign, and he garnered a similar fanfare heading into 2021.
Pearson made his league debut in 2020, shooting five white innings against the Nationals and flashing a three-digit radiator which he supplemented with a more slider (and less used shifts and curves). However, the narrowness of the elbow sent him on the injured list a few starts later, and Pearson ended up pitching just 18 innings in his debut campaign as the Jays took a cautious approach with their prized young right-hander.
Injuries have been a persistent source of frustration for Pearson, although some of his problems have been rather random in nature. He fractured his forearm on his first minor league start of the 2018 season when he was hit by a back liner, only to suffer oblique strain while rehabilitating from that injury. That pair of issues has limited him to just 1 2/3 innings this season, and now it looks like another string of injuries will significantly hamper his workload in 2021. Pearson has only had 27 innings in total until ‘ now in 2021.
Another injury-ridden season is certainly a daunting one for Pearson, and it has likely upended expectations for the Blue Jays as well. Pearson would likely have been on some type of innings limit in 2021, but he still signaled that the camp was seen as a ready option for the MLB in the rotation.
Pearson’s injuries and the early fights of Tanner Roark – which prompted the right-hander’s release – left the Jays with a rotation that probably doesn’t quite look like what they envisioned but has always been solid. Steven Matz is currently out after testing positive for Covid-19, but he gave the Jays 69 2/3 innings of 4.26 ERA ball. left-handed comrade Robbie Ray enjoys an excellent rebound campaign on a one-year contract, while righty ross adolescent has established itself as a reliable option. The Jays’ second pitcher hope, Alek Manoah, has been pretty good in three of his five outings since making his MLB debut a month ago.
Combined with top starter Hyun Jin Ryu, the quartet of Matz, Ray, Stripling and Manoah give the Jays a pretty solid starting five for now. That said, as is the case with Pearson, Manoah is surely someone whose workload the Blue Jays will want to watch. Matz only pitched 30 2/3 innings last season, while Stripling (49 1/3) and Ray (51 2/3) also had fairly light workloads, even by 2020 standards.
The Jays have some depth right now. Anthony Kay starts tonight’s match, and in Triple-A, the trio of Jacob Waguespack, TJ Zeuch and Nick Allgeyer pitched reasonably well. But the Blue Jays lack veteran weapons with an established track record, making rotation a logical target as the trade deadline approaches. General manager Ross Atkins has already acknowledged the desire to add some help to the reliever box and perhaps a left-handed bat, but the new uncertainty surrounding Pearson likely increases the need for a few innings in the rotation as well.