At the end of his college baseball career at UC Berkeley in 2016, Devin Pearson told teams not to draft him.
That detail serves as unexpected background for the man who now oversees the draft for the Red Sox. But it is indeed the case that seven years ago, Pearson — an athletic, dynamic outfielder at Cal whose promising career was derailed by injuries — decided to walk away from the game.
Pearson, who’d been drafted out of high school in the 30th round by the Blue Jays but did not sign, had already dealt with a series of injuries that had required surgery. He played through a right labrum injury he suffered in the fall of his senior season, but was limited mostly to designated hitter.
While there was some interest in Pearson as a draftee that spring, he decided not to endure another major surgery and lengthy rehab process, instead accepting that college would be the end of his playing career — and, he thought at the time, his life in baseball.
“With the timing of my last injury in the fall, it gave me enough time to kind of be at peace with it. At that point, it was three surgeries in four years or whatever it was, and I just kind of felt like I needed to get away,” said Pearson. “I thought, ‘Hey, I gave it my shot and it didn’t work out. Let’s go in another direction.’ ”
He spent a year in commercial real estate after graduating, but quickly realized how much he missed the game. He joined the Red Sox as a pro scouting intern in 2017.
Pearson took to heart a key piece of advice from vice president of scouting Gus Quattlebaum and director of pro scouting Harrison Slutsky: Read every scouting report you can get your hands on. Then, after he was hired to a full-time position in the team’s amateur scouting department at the end of 2017, he sought every possible opportunity to attend scouting events and to learn from the veteran evaluators around him.
In the last six years, Pearson — who was promoted from an assistant to assistant director after the 2019 season and the director of the department last fall — has followed those charges to an almost absurd degree.
“I can’t say enough good things about his work ethic and character. It’s really inspiring. I’m not sure that there’s anyone who works harder in baseball than Devin. He just never turns it off,” said Red Sox assistant director of player development Chris Stasio, who is also Pearson’s roommate. “It’s constant. It’s unbelievable. We’ve been at countless bachelor parties and weddings where he’s hammering out, like, 10 or 15 minutes of work at all times.”
Pearson’s work ethic, as well as his ability to connect with both the scouts and analysts involved in the draft as well as across departments — particularly with those on the minor league side, helping the Sox to better integrate their scouting efforts with player development — has allowed the 29-year-old to rise quickly within the front office.
When Paul Toboni, the amateur scouting director from 2019-22, was promoted last fall to vice president of both amateur scouting and player development, the Sox tabbed Pearson, who has made what members of the organization describe as a seamless transition to his new position.
“If you watch him and how he operates and leads the staff, you would think that he’s been doing this for years,” said Red Sox VP of scouting Mike Rikard, who was the Sox’ director of amateur scouting from 2015-19. “His people skills, his energy, his work ethic are all really unmatched as far as just how he listens, how he treats people, how he trusts people. It’s really been an honor to just watch him transition into this role.”
Now, the year-plus of preparation will give way to actual picks. Starting Sunday night, when the Red Sox will have the Nos. 14 and 50 selections in the first two rounds of the three-day, 20-round draft, Pearson will be in charge of a process that could shape the team for years to come.
“This is why you get into the amateur side of things. The draft is our Super Bowl,” said Pearson. “We put in a lot of work to get here and now it’s just time to trust the process and I’m confident we’re gonna end up in a good spot. I’m very, very excited to do this.”