Big Nate as Advertised for Bisons

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Clutchlings photo

I saw Nate Pearson for the first time in person as the 2017 season was drawing to a close.

Sitting in the press box at Vancouver’s venerable Nat Bailey Stadium, Pearson’s fastball looked every bit the 100 mph weapon it had been touted to be.  Pitching in his innings-limited 8th start, he allowed both a runner past 2nd Base for the first time that season, as well as the only runs Northwest League hitters would manage off of the 1st round pick.

Pearson threw a first inning pitch that measured 91 on the stadium gun.  It was a change up.  At 91.  NWL hitters really didn’t have a chance.

 

Fast forward to yesterday, and my path crossed with the large righthander again, as he made his Sahlen Field debut for the Buffalo Bisons, and other than a hiccup in the 2nd, Pearson was dominant as the Bisons continued their last season playoff push when Roemon Fields slapped a single with the bases loaded past a drawn in infield in the 11th to give Buffalo the W.

Pearson’s fastball was electric as usual, although he sat more in the 96-97 range, hitting 99 on several occasion.  He seemed to be focused more on hitting his spots with the FB, although several times he emphasized his leg drive to dial up the velo.   What was equally impressive was the quality of Pearson’s secondaries, which he was able to throw for strikes with consistency, and in any count.

If you’re looking for a quality that marks Pearson as a big league starter, it surely was that.

The only trouble Pearson really was in came in the 2nd, when he caught too much of the plate with a runner on to the recently demoted Michael Chavis, who crushed the pitch over the LF wall.  Pearson had struggled a bit with his command in that 26-pitch inning, but he settled in after the Dalbec blast, retiring the next ten hitters in a row.

By the time the end of Pearson’s day had come after 6 innings and 95 pitches, he had retired 15 of the last 17 hitters he faced.  He didn’t give up another hit after the Dalbec blast.  For the day, he fanned 7, walked none, and allowed only two hits.

Pearson has been handled very carefully this year, alternating outings of 5 and 2 innings as the club tried to build him up after injuries limited him to 22 innings last year (the wraps have come off a bit in his last two starts, as he’s pitched 7 and then 6 innings).  Using technology to improve his slider, he’s taken a little bit off of it, but the pitch has improved considerably this season, showing late break and good depth yesterday.

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Santiago Espinal is one of the unheralded prospects in the Blue Jays system, but the versatile Dominican looks very much like a big leaguer.

Espinal played 2nd yesterday, and has mostly split his time between the keystone corner and SS this year.  He’s also spent some time in CF.

Promoted to Buffalo several weeks ago, he struggled in his first few games against AAA pitching, but over his past ten games, he’s been scorching the ball, hitting at a .378 clip.

He’s maybe not a potential first division player, but Espinal does a lot of things well, and could help a major league club in a utility role.

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The Bisons bullpen is full of fireballing, potential future big leaguers.

Bryan Baker came in and pitched two scoreless innings during the tie breaker portion of the game, flashing a mid 90s fastball and a high compete mentality.

Ty Tice, an undersized (5’9″) righty, preceded Baker, and dialled his velo up in the high 90s.

Southpaw Kirby Snead, owner of one of the best sliders in the system, was first man up to replace Pearson, and while he’s given up some contact of late, has the look of a big league bullpen arm.

Jackson McClelland did not pitch last night, but he consistently hits 100 on the gun, and has added improved secondaries to his arsenal this year.  The regrouping Matt Dermody is making his way back from Tommy John, and the Bisons recently received Travis Bergen, who was simply the best reliever in the system last year, back from the Giants, who had taken him in the Rule 5.   If Buffalo can sneak into the playoffs heading into the last week of the season, their bullpen will have been one of the reasons why.

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