NICK MEARS, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: October 7, 1996
Height: 6′ 4″
Signed: Minor league free agent, 2018
How Acquired: Non-Drafted Free Agent
College: Sacramento City CC
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|The Pirates signed Mears as a non-drafted free agent just before the 2018 minor league season ended. He had Tommy John surgery in 2015, then pitched for Sacramento City Community College in 2017, putting up a 2.56 ERA, with 39 strikeouts in 31.2 IP. He didn’t play in 2018 until the summer due to a personal issue. Mears got some attention in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer league in which he pitched in 2017 and 2018. Between the two summers, he fanned 44 in 23.1 IP. That probably led to Baseball America rating him the 35th best prospect in Northern California going into the 2018 draft. At the time he signed with the Pirates Mears threw 93-96 mph, but by mid-2019 he was sitting around 96 and had hit 100. He’ll throw the pitch high, which has led to very high K rates. He’s replaced his slider, which wasn’t that effective, with a curve. Mears quickly showed more of a ceiling than the usual NDFA.
The Pirates sent Mears to the West Virginia Black Bears, where he got into three games. He struck out over half (8 of 15) of the batters he faced.
Mears moved up the ladder quickly, starting the season in Greensboro and finishing it in Altoona. He spent the bulk of the season with Bradenton, also missing a little time in July. He missed a lot of bats throughout and got over some early control problems; he walked three in his very first game, but after that walked two in one game and never more than one in any other. Opponents batted only .186 against him. He had a huge platoon split. He held right-handed hitters to a puny 116/171/232 line, but left-handed hitters were a problem, posting a 278/395/431 line.
With their bullpen in a complete meltdown early in the abbreviated 2020 season, the Pirates called Mears up. He got into four games and struggled to throw strikes, although he also wasn’t easy to hit.
Mears opened the season with Indianapolis, then moved up to the Pirates for good in mid-July. He generally pitched well in AAA, despite the ERA. All but one of the earned runs he allowed came in three of his 17 outings. His other numbers were good except that he walked too many. In the majors, he similarly pitched well much of the time but had some breakdowns. Seven of the 13 earned runs he allowed came in two games out of 30. Although his K rate wasn’t strong overall, he sometimes showed the ability to get out of trouble by stringing together strikeouts. Of course, he also had games where he couldn’t get the ball over the plate. Mears had a platoon split, but not a dramatic one, giving up an .868 OPS to left-handed batters and .781 to right-handed.
Mears opened the 2022 season on the 60-day injured list following surgery to remove scar tissue from his elbow. He made four rehab appearances for Bradenton, starting in late May, then moved up to Indianapolis. In late June, though, he got shut down for a little over a month. He made it back to Indy at the beginning of August and also made two late-season appearances in the majors. Mears had trouble throwing strikes through much of his rehab, but in eight September games for Indy he had a 1.59 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.
The Pirates have stuck with Mears through a lot of missed time and rehab struggles. He’s still pitched only 99 innings in the minors and 30 in the majors. It’d be good to see what he can do following a normal off-season, without any injury concerns hanging over his head. He still has an option left, but should qualify for a fourth option in any event.
UPDATE: The Pirates designated Mears for assignment when they acquired Connor Joe.