The San Francisco Giants have not needed to call on bullpen reinforcements so far this season. They do have an intriguing lefty reliever waiting in the wings, though.
At the end of spring training, the San Francisco Giants made an under-the-radar trade, sending out-of-options right-hander Chris Stratton to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for lefty reliever Williams Jerez.
So far this season, the Giants bullpen has been one of the best in baseball. Entering play on Sunday, the relief corps sported a 3.14 ERA, good for tops in the National League and third in the majors. As a result, there has not been much roster tinkering among relief pitchers.
That said, it sounds like Jerez is in the “next man up” spot.
After switch-pitcher Pat Venditte was added to the roster on Saturday, Jerez might be just one injury away from getting the call. For now, he’ll remain at Triple-A Sacramento.
So who is Williams Jerez and what does he bring to the table?
The 26-year-old currently occupies the No. 30 spot in the Giants prospect rankings at MLB.com, where he was described as follows:
"“Jerez has more arm strength than most left-handers, sitting at 93-97 mph with some sink on his fastball. After struggling against righties early in his career, he has kept them in check by developing an 86-90 mph splitter that was his most effective pitch during his first stint in the Minors. He throws a slider in the same range, though it’s more notable for its velocity than its bite.Jerez took to throwing strikes quickly for a converted position player but his control hasn’t been as sharp as he has progressed to the upper levels. The effectiveness of his splitter gives him a chance to be more than a situational reliever, though he’ll need to do a better job of locating his pitches to get there.”"
In 38 appearances at the Triple-A level last season, he posted a 4.53 ERA and 1.47 WHIP while striking out an impressive 74 batters in 55.2 innings.
So far this season, he’s looked even better, pitching to a 2.57 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with 13 strikeouts in 14 innings.
Originally drafted as an outfielder in the second round of the 2011 draft, Jerez uses his superior athleticism well on the mound. Considering he’s still relatively new to pitching, there’s a reason to believe he can take another step forward.
The Giants already have closer Will Smith, setup man Tony Watson and Rule 5 pick Travis Bergen as options from the left side in the bullpen.
Considering the fact that Smith and Watson are both prime candidates to be traded this summer, Jerez could be auditioning to serve as the team’s primary southpaw next season once he does finally get the call.
As such, he’ll be one to keep an eye on going forward as a potential long-term complementary piece.