Signed as a free agent in August of 2018, this young right hander seemed to come from out of nowhere. Mears had pitched for two years at Sacramento City College, as well as two summers in the Northwoods League playing for the Willmar Stingers. It was during his second summer there that he really hit his stride. In 14 games and 19.1 innings he posted a 1.40 ERA, a .724 WHIP and 29 Ks. Due to being signed in August he was only able to appear in 3 games, but he continued to impress; striking out 8 in 4 innings.
Last summer, Mears began the year with the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pittsburgh’s Low A Affiliate) of the South Atlantic League. It only took 11.2 innings to realize he was ready to move up to the next level, as he clearly outplayed his competition: striking out 19 with a 1.029 WHIP. His stay with the Bradenton Marauders (High A/Advanced) lasted a little longer, but Mears continued his dominance. His strike out rate dropped slightly from 14.7 per 9 to 12.9, but his WHIP stayed steady (1.029 to 1.033). Toward the end of the year he was promoted for the second time in one season to the Altoona Curve (AA).
When he arrived in Altoona there was still not much information on him other than the fact that he struck out a lot of guys, which was clearly evident by the fact that even the knowledgeable Garett Mansfield, voice of the Altoona Curve, had to go down to the clubhouse to have a conversation with him to find out his whole story. He was ultimately only with the Curve long enough to pitch 5 innings, but he once again impressed and earned an assignment to the Arizona Fall League where he would be teammates with Jared Oliva on the Javelinas. In the AZFL he didn’t give up a run, struck out 11 in 8 innings. Mears’ whirlwind of a season was capped off with a non-roster invitation to Pirates’ spring training and eventually earning a spot in the Pirates player pool, being assigned to Pittsburgh’s Alternate Site in Altoona toward the end of July.
However, the roller coaster that Mears had been riding for the previous sixteen months since arriving in Greensboro was far from over as he was promoted to the big league club on August 8th and immediately entered the game versus Detroit later that afternoon in the 6th inning. His Major League Debut was less than ideal as he walked 3 batters and gave up an earned run, but he did strike out 2 and work his way out of jam. The very next day Mears would be on his way back to Altoona.
A little over a week later Mears would have his number called again, this time appearing in two games in four days. The young right hander came into the game on 8/19 against the Indians in a tough spot, with runners on 1st and 2nd in the top of the 8th and 3 runs already in. He promptly struck out Delino DeShields to avoid any more damage. Mears then struck out another in the 9th and induced a double play. His second outing would not be as promising as he was unable to locate the zone; walking 3, striking out none and allowing another earned run. Once again he was optioned back to Altoona almost as quickly as he had been brought up.
When evaluating Nick Mears I would like everyone to take into consideration is that this young man is only 23 years old and prior to being called up to the Pirates he had only pitched five innings in AA, after having started the year in Low A. That feat alone is impressive. Now add in 70 grade fastball and a plus curveball that resulted in 13.39 K/9 across three levels in MiLB last year and 10.80 K/9 in limited MLB action this year; all of which points toward a bright future for this young man.