Rookie Review: Wilmer Font, RHP, Texas Rangers
Everyone is talking about the Orioles promoting Dylan Bundy today, but there is another just-promoted rookie that you should pay close attention to: right-handed pitcher Wilmer Font of the Texas Rangers. For a variety of reasons, he hasn't received a lot of notice outside of Rangers fandom, but he has one of the better arms in professional baseball and has made big strides harnessing his talent in 2012.
Font was signed by the Rangers out of the Venezuela in 2007. Hampered by command and health issues, he didn't make his full-season debut until 2009, when he went 8-3, 3.49 ERA with a 105/59 K/BB in 108 innings for Low-A Hickory in the South Atlantic League, allowing just 93 hits. In 2010 he was limited to 16 starts in A-ball, posting a 4.35 ERA with an 85/45 K/BB in 79 innings between Low-A and High-A. He was beginning to draw some national attention at that point, but fell off the radar again after blowing out his elbow. Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2011, and he entered '12 as very much a question-mark.
Font's velocity was inconsistent early this spring, which is normal for a guy rehabbing from surgery. Once he got his confidence back, his velocity picked back up, and by the end of the season he was throwing bullets again.
Font posted a 4.21 ERA with a 109/37 K/BB in 83 innings for High-A Carolina this year, allowing just 58 hits. Promoted to Double-A Frisco in August, he moved to the bullpen to keep his workload reasonable. He posted a 3.00 ERA with a spectacular 29 whiffs in 15 innings, allowing only nine hits, walking seven.
It may seem to Rangers fans especially that Font has been around for awhile, but he's still only 22. Listed at 6-4, 210, the right-hander was born May 24th, 1990, in La Guiara, Venezuela. Clocked as high as 100 MPH in the past, he topped out at 97.8 MPH in his first major league outing and was working at 93-97 consistently all summer. After using a curveball and a straight change in the past, he's adopted a slider and splitter as his key secondary pitches this year. Sabermetrically-speaking, his outstanding K/IP and H/IP ratios confirm the quality of his stuff.
Now that he's proven his health, the main questions heading forward go back to his command and role. With just 15 innings in Double-A, is he ready for a major league job next year, or would more minor league time be advisable? Is his arsenal diverse enough for him to start, or will he fit better as a power-armed reliever and potential closer?
Either way, he has the potential to be an impact pitcher. At this point I see him as at least a Grade B- prospect.