The Pittsburgh Pirates made a late non-drafted free agent signing on Thursday, agreeing to a deal with right-handed pitcher Nick Mears. He’s 21 years old, listed at 6’4″, 190 pounds, and he attended Sacramento City Community College.
In 18 appearances in 2017, Mears had a 2.56 ERA in 31.2 innings, with 39 strikeouts. He redshirted as a freshman due to Tommy John surgery in November 2015. There are no 2018 stats for him and it appears he didn’t pitch between stints in summer collegiate ball.
Mears grabbed some attention last summer, putting up some big strikeout numbers in the Northwoods League, which is college summer ball. He had 18 strikeouts in 9.1 innings during the regular season and a total of 26 strikeouts in 14 innings including playoffs. He allowed just three hits in his ten appearances during the season and the only run he gave up all season (including playoffs) was unearned.
He returned to the league this season and had a 1.39 ERA in 19.1 innings over 14 appearances, with 29 strikeouts and just three walks. Mears just finished up the league when the Pirates agreed to a deal to sign him.
Baseball America had him ranked as the 35th best prospect in Northern California for the 2018 draft. He throws a fastball 93-96 MPH, which is up from low-90s in scouting reports from 2017. He also has a high 70’s curveball and a changeup that shows great separation from his fastball and is his second best pitch.
It’s interesting that he signed now because unlike all of the other non-drafted free agents signed this year by the Pirates, Mears still has college eligibility.