Unlike a few of the previous names on this list, Wilmer Font is probably somewhat recognizable to the Rangers fan. Though only 23, Font has been a part of the Rangers’ system for six years, and saw two games with the major league club last season.
The right-hander was signed out of Venezuela in 2006 and seemed on a fairly normal track through the system before losing the entire 2011 season to Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2012 and split the season between high-A Myrtle Beach and double-A Frisco with a short appearance in the majors in September, and started 2013 back with the RoughRiders. At 6’4”, Font has some issues with his delivery, such as getting his height and wingspan to do the same thing consistently, but there’s nothing that raises any particular red flags. He first appeared in Baseball America’s Top 30 of the Rangers system in 2008, when he was still projected as a potential starter, but made the transition to full-time relief in 2012, between high-A and double-A.
The switch from starting to relief could have both stemmed from Font’s pitching repertoire and a need to limit his innings, as even prior to the Tommy John surgery he struggled with injury, only pitching 4.1 innings in 2008, and dealing with issues such as shoulder tendonitis during 2013 Spring Training.
Font throws one of the fastest pitches in the Texas system, regularly sitting in the 95-97 range, hitting 99 in an August Round Rock game last season, and other reports had him in the triple-digits. His command of it can be questionable, though he still manages to strike out almost twice as many people as he walks. He does throw the fastball nearly 90% of the time, using a low 80s slider and split-fingered changeup rarely. The two off-speed pitches are fringy and Font struggles to find the strike zone with them, possibly both a cause and result of his seeming reluctance to use them.
If he develops the secondary pitches to their potential, Font could have a similar impact to Tanner Scheppers, with an overpowering fastball ideal for a late-innings situation, and good-enough secondaries to throw off major league hitters’ timing. If his development stalls and the fastball remains his only comfortable pitch, Font could still be productive from the ‘pen, but in a more limited, low-leverage role, like Henry Rodriguez, currently of the Miami Marlins.
Font’s numbers look excellent overall, with a minute ERA in triple-A, a decent K:BB ratio, and no home runs allowed after June 14th. However, despite these statistics, the reality is that for Font to reach his ceiling, he’ll need to throw his offspeed pitches more, and with better accuracy. His over-reliance on the fastball could create problems in the future if he loses velocity or hitters plan for his single-minded attack. If he shows a more diverse mix of pitches in spring training, and an more advanced control of the strike zone, he and his potential for triple-digit heat could find its way to the bullpen in Arlington sooner rather than later.