When Nate Pearson started playing baseball, he had a plan.
"I had four goals when I was a kid," said Pearson, who was named this year's junior college pitcher of the year by the scouting service Perfect Game. "One was to play college baseball. The second was to get drafted. The third was to make the major leagues, and the fourth was to become a Hall of Famer. You've got to think big."
He can check playing college baseball off his list. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound pitcher from Bishop McLaughlin attended Florida International last year as a freshman, then transferred to the College of Central Florida in Ocala. He has an offer from LSU for his junior and senior years.
He should be able to check the second goal off his list Monday. He is projected as a first- or second-round pick in the MLB draft. Armed with a fastball that occasionally reaches 100 mph, he is a big-bodied, power-pitching right-hander, something most pro teams drool over.
In 13 starts at the College of Central Florida, he struck out 118 in 81 innings and had a 1.56 ERA. In 18 appearances at FIU, he struck out 33 in 32 ⅓ innings. As a high school senior, he was 9-1 with 109 strikeouts in 72 innings after missing his junior year due to an arm injury.
He was not drafted in 2015.
"I was surprised he wasn't drafted then," said Bishop McLaughlin coach Jeff Swymer, whose team made the state semifinals in 2015 with Pearson as the ace. "Where he's at now, with the way he works, doesn't surprise me at all."
Pearson didn't even see professional baseball as an option when this season started. He said he transferred from FIU mainly because the Panthers weren't a good fit. But by playing for a two-year school, he is able to enter the draft a year earlier than if he stayed at Division I-A FIU.
His original plan was to play at the College of Central Florida, see what kind of interest he could get from other Division I schools and play another year of college ball before entering the draft. But it could be time for Plan B.
"I knew (getting drafted) would be a possibility, but I really thought it would be next year," Pearson said. "I'm not surprised, because I think I've worked for it. But I am pretty surprised to see it all come together."
Pearson is the 35th-best prospect in the draft, mlb.com says. Baseball America has him 13th. Former Alonso and current Florida pitcher Alex Faedo is the top-ranked Tampa Bay area player at 11th by mlb.com.
Swymer has no doubt that Pearson's ranking is deserved.
"He was that one-win-a-week guy," Swymer said. "You look for those guys every year. He's the one guy you can roll out there and win every week.
"My concern with him his senior year was that guys who throw that hard are a little wild. But going into our state final-four game, he had five walks all year. That was incredible."
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If Pearson does get drafted as projected, he could get almost $2 million as a signing bonus. That might be hard to turn down, but he said being a high draft pick doesn't necessarily mean he'll go pro.
"If it all works out and it's the right fit, then I'll be ready to go," Pearson said. "I wouldn't mind going to LSU, either."