SF Giants claim award-winning lefty off waivers

Jonathan Bermudez
Jonathan Bermudez / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

As part of their constant roster churn, trying to find a diamond in the rough and unlock a key to make him a productive big-leaguer, the SF Giants under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi make a lot of waiver claims and small trades throughout the year.

The latest transaction to add to the list involves a player who, just last year, was his organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Multiple reporters, including Houston Astros MLB.com beat writer Brian McTaggart, reported Tuesday that the Giants had claimed left-handed pitcher Jonathan Bermudez off waivers from Houston.

Bermudez has had an interesting minor league career. The Puerto Rico native was a 23rd-round draft choice in 2018 out of Southeastern University in Florida, which competes at the NAIA level. He was the NAIA Pitcher of the Year that season for the Fire with a 15-2 record and 1.95 ERA.

The first three minor league seasons for Bermudez have ranged from solid to spectacular. After being used as a reliever in rookie ball after signing and striking out less than a batter an inning in 10 games, he began starting in 2019.

That year, Bermudez pitched in 18 games with 10 starts for Low-A Quad Cities, whiffing 79 in 68 innings with a 4.10 ERA. During that campaign he made a big jump to Double-A Corpus Christi and was lights out in five appearances out of the bullpen, allowing just one earned run over nine and two-thirds innings with 14 strikeouts.

After the pandemic cancelled the 2020 MiLB season, Bermudez spent most of 2021 with Corpus Christi and began the performance that earned him the Astros MiLB Pitcher of the Year honors: 3.32 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) with the Hooks, striking out 106 against just 21 walks in 78 2/3 innings. His last few games were spent in Triple-A with Sugar Land, where he struck out another 40 in 32 1/3 innings with a 3.06 ERA.

Why was Bermudez available for the SF Giants?

All of a sudden, in 2022 Bermudez has pitched like you'd expect to see from a 23rd-round draft pick out of the NAIA ranks. After being added to the Astros' 40-man roster in the offseason, the southpaw has had a disastrous season back at Sugar Land. In 14 starts and 19 total games pitched, Bermudez has an 8.96 ERA and 1.81 WHIP. He still has decent strikeout numbers at almost one per inning, but he has issued more walks and hits than ever before at 37 and 85, respectively, in 67 1/3 innings.

Clearly he didn't just suddenly forget how to pitch, and the Giants seem to think they can tinker with him and get his success back.

According to a Baseball America scouting report when they ranked him Houston's 27th-best prospect entering this season (his only ranking from BA over his pro career), Bermudez has a fastball in the low-90s with some movement, "huge tailing action" on both a changeup and splitter in the low- to mid-80s and two different sliders. He also offers some deception and funk, and the Astros reportedly thought he may have more velocity thanks to his 6'2", 237-pound frame.

The Astros ended their experiment with Bermudez on Saturday by designating him for assignment to add utility man David Hensley to the 40-man roster.

According to the Giants' official transactions page, it appears they made room for Bermudez on the roster by transferring Gregory Santos from the 7-day Injured List to the 60-day IL.

This comes on the heels of the Giants signing former dominant closer Ken Giles to a minor-league deal to try to possibly strengthen the bullpen in the final month of play.