Yesterday I discussed Brendon Little, the State JC of Florida lefty who is considered to be one of the best JUCO draft prospects this year. His combination of a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and a plus curveball that can hit the mid 80’s makes him a favorite amongst scouts. But he is not the only dominant JUCO pitcher from Florida. Nate Pearson is a giant 6’6” righty out of Central Florida JC who in 13 starts, had just a 1.56 ERA this season with the Patriots. Unlike Little, Pearson went undrafted out of high school and he committed to Florida International. After one season at FIU, he transferred to Central Florida and has blossomed into a top 50 pick. Pearson did commit to LSU next year, but I highly doubt that he will be playing for them next year and will sign this year.
Pearson has had an amazing season so far with the Panthers this year. Over the course of the season, he pitched 81 innings while striking out 188 and walking just 23. This translates to a 13.11 K/9 and a 2.56 BB/9. Obviously, college numbers are not a great indicator of future success, especially JUCO numbers, but the 2.56 BB/9 really stands out to me, since he is primarily a “power” pitcher. While he has had great numbers this year at Central Florida JC, the reason he is so highly touted is because of the velocity. Pearson has hit 100 on numerous occasions during bullpen sessions and sits in the mid nineties. Everyone loves those high gun numbers, especially right now, and Pearson will definitely benefit from that. The other part that I like about Pearson is that his mechanics are very fluid and I think they are better than Little if you want to compare the two. I think he will benefit from this when he starts to develop his offspeed offerings, which we will get to.
My one area of concern is his offspeed pitches. I have watched some of his video on YouTube, and it seems like he does have somewhat of a handle on his curveball, and I was unable to find him throwing a changeup, so it is assumed that he has only worked on it in bullpen sessions. In my opinion, I think his curveball can become an plus pitch that will complement his fastball nicely. Since he does have solid mechanics, I think he will be able to develop a third offering, whether it be a changeup or a slider. Pearson’s offspeed pitches have been vary polarizing amongst scouting reports that I have read; some scouts believe his curve has potential to be an above average pitch and others think the opposite. Only time will tell, I believe that he will be able to get his curve to the point where it is an above average offering. I do doubt that he will develop a third pitch however, which leads me to believe he will end up in the bullpen in the majors.
In conclusion, Pearson has a lot of work to do. His fastball is lights out and there is no denying that. He also has shown great control and does not give up many walks. But he will have to improve his offspeed pitches if he wants to have any shot at becoming a successful MLB starter. I am a bit more bearish on Pearson compared to others because I am not sure if his offspeed will catch up to his fastball, but I expect him to go in the late first to early second round.