101 up an’ in at the letters.
Swing and a miss. Strike 3.
Cue Nate Pearson’s strikeout strut around the mound.
On Sunday night, the Toronto Blue Jays prospect fireballer had quite possibly the most electric inning of work at the MLB Futures Game. Making quick work of three of the game’s most talented prospects, Pearson only needed 13 pitches to strike out two and walk back into the American League dugout.
For those @BlueJays fans who missed it.
Nate Pearson struck out 2 & had one of the more electric innings in last night’s #FuturesGame
FB sat 99-102, located for strikes, attacked hitters. SL at 87-89 with good separation. Lots of swing&miss.
— Rich Birfer (@richardbirfs) July 8, 2019
There was no hard contact. No wasted pitches.
Pearson was fully in control, firing off seven fastballs which registered between 99-102 mph on the stadium gun. He paired his electric fastball with a wipeout slider which sat comfortably between 87-89 mph, presenting great separation in velocity and nasty break.
On Monday night, Pearson was one-upped by a bigger name in the baseball world and quite possibly the most hyped up prospect since Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant. He may have not won the Home Run Derby, but Vladdy Guerrero Jr. won the night and on one of the biggest stages in baseball – a star was born before our very eyes.
Monday night was an absolute laser show to say the least as Vladdy deposited 91 baseballs into the seats, slugging more home runs than three MLB teams have all season, while smashing Derby records.
— Rich Birfer (@richardbirfs) July 9, 2019
The lighting quick bat speed, the 80 grade raw power, the eye-popping exit velocity numbers provided by StatCast. It was everything that has already made Vladdy a household in the sport his father dominated just two decades prior.
Much has been said about Vladdy’s up-and-down start to his MLB career.
His elevated K%, his struggles against Major League breaking balls, his inconsistency at third base, yet all of that was put on hold when the tools of an incredibly talented 20 year old kid were put on full display. The ball just comes off the bat differently. The sound is different. It’s like a gun shot and it’s Vladdy’s uncanny ability to barrel up any pitch and drive it that makes him so special. It’s a line drive swing, yet he is able to generate the power necessary to possess 30-plus home run pop.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 9, 2019
As he continues to grow more comfortable with MLB pitching, he will only continue to tap into his otherworldly potential. Again, he is only 20-years of age, and that means he can still get stronger – imagine that – he can and probably will make more strides physically. While the hits and home runs haven’t been there in bunches just yet, partially due to an underwhelming BABIP (.280) and being squeezed a fair bit by Major League umping, Vladdy has built a track record of having a great understanding of the strike zone, elite bat-to-ball skills and the ability to really drive the baseball.
The question now with Vladdy is based ono when, not if, will he get on his way to establishing himself as one of the game’s next great all-around hitters.
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Drawing comparisons to Justin Verlander, it’s very impressive to watch Pearson go to work on the mound. For a 6-foot-6 behemoth of a man, Pearson generates crazy amounts of power with his lower half and possesses solid body control throughout his delivery which has allowed his to command a fastball that can reach triple-digits.
Along side Guerrero, the duo provides the Blue Jays with a lethal power arm-power bat combination that can dominate the American League East for the next decade, but what this season has shown us is that there is more talent on the way.
In what has otherwise been a lost season, the next way of Blue Jays have already started leaving their mark. In a year of change, this season emphasizes development over winning. Growing and learning over competing.
Now, there is a plethora of stats that may suggest that Lourdes Gurriel is a streaky hitter. From an absurdly high BABIP over his lengthy hot stretch to a high whiff percentage outside of the zone. On the flip side, between his rookie hit streak last season and his torrid run since his latest call-up, it can also be said that Gurriel has the ability to lead an entire lineup. His bat-to-ball skills in the zone are excellent and he uses his athleticism and long arms to get around the baseball and barrel the ball up. His work in left field has been a revelation, displaying good range and an accurate and strong arm that’s reached the mid-90’s from the outfield according to StatCast data.
With an OPS of .981 on the season, rest assured, Gurriel has done everything possible to put a strangle hold on the corner outfield spot.
With another electric bat waiting in the wings in Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen and Cavan Biggio have been two other bright spots for the Jays.
Because I'm into self loathing, let's take a look at Danny Jansen's 30-game rolling average.
Last 30 👍
xBA: .266 ✅ (.237 BA)
xwOBA: .357 ✅ (.329 wOBA)
Barrels/PA: 6.6% ✅
— BatFlip Crazy (@batflipcrazy) July 5, 2019
Before his bat started to come around prior to the All-Star break, Jansen has grown leaps and bounds behind home plate. The bat has always been the carrying tool that has catapulted him atop prospect rankings and its becoming evident now as Jansen is becoming more comfortable at the plate and more aware of the strike zone. Plagued by a poor BABIP for the majority of the season, Jansen has cut down on chasing pitches outside of the zone and is starting to use his short and fluid swing to drive the baseball with authority.
With his work behind the plate, he has become a legit two-way catcher. His arm may always remain average, but as a framer and game-caller, he has become legit, sitting in the top-five in framing runs saved amongst qualified catcher on the season (according to Baseball Prospectus). Meanwhile, Biggio’s ability to take professional and productive at-bats right out of the gate has really stabilized what has been a struggling offense for the better part of the year.
Outside of the bats, Trent Thornton and Sean Reid-Foley have been pleasant surprises – Reid-Foley has been in his major league outings at the very least.
Without a doubt, fastball command will be key for both young pitchers, but its very clear to see that both right handers have swing-and-miss stuff. Reid-Foley looks destined to be an above average reliever if he finds his command consistently and pairs his mid-to-high 90’s fastball with a filthy slider, while Thornton has shown the stuff and the requisite pitch mix to be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter on a playoff calibre team.
* * *
So what’s next?
The Toronto Blue Jays have already graduated a number of their top prospects and there’s more on the way over the next two seasons. Bichette, Pearson, Patrick Murphy, TJ Zeuch, Jackson McLeLand, and Anthony Alford – you would think – seem ready to join the major league team within the next year or so. Bichette may very well be up in the next month. Assuming all goes well, collegiate arm Alek Manoah may be a quick turn-around candidate too.
At this point, the Blue Jays may have more talent on the farm than they know what to do with.
Lower down in the system, Jordan Groshans, Eric Pardinho, Adam Kloffenstein, Griffin Conine, and Miguel Hiraldo are just some of the names that are destined to become high-impact players on the next level.
It is no question that the Jays have the young talent to compete for years to come and that is what puts this organization in a unique position unlike any it has ever experienced. The Jays have never had such an abundance of elite prospects shoot up through the system simultaneously. With that being said, many of the names lower down pipeline may turn into valuable trade chips once the Jays see a window to win presents itself – and that window may come sooner than many think.
Even back in 2015 and 2016, it was difficult to lure big name free agents on long term contracts to Toronto. With a window so evidently closing fast, there aren’t many stars willing to move countries, let alone area codes, to play for an aging team set to undergo a transition period.
Things are different now.
The Jays have the core and the long-term vision in place to sell their franchise to the game’s best in free agency as well as the requisite trade chips in lower level of the minors that can help put them over-the-top at the trade deadline.
It’s been a trying season for Jays fans, but if there is anything the past month of the season has shown, it’s that there is no more waiting for the future, because the future is here.