Signed at the age of sixteen out of Venezuela, Wilmer Font is a tall young righty, listed at 6’4” and 210 pounds. Now twenty-two, Font has put himself into a position to start the 2013 season in the Texas Rangers bullpen as a middle reliever. During the current off-season the Rangers lost their second and third best right-handed relievers in Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. While Texas did pick-up Joakim Soria and Jason Frasor to fill those holes, they lack the dominance and durability of Adams and Uehara. This is not to say that Font will end up being Joe Nathan’s set-up man, its only to point out that Font should get the opportunity to make a solid contribution in a questionable Texas bullpen this season.
Wilmer Font had been developed as a starting pitcher throughout his entire minor league career until he received a promotion to the Texas League in 2012. Prior to getting the call to AA, Font started nineteen games in the Carolina League. During his time with Myrtle Beach, Font struck out 109 in 83.1 innings while walking 37 and surrendering a mere 58 hits. His ERA with the Pelicans was 4.21 and he gave up ten home runs to Carolina League hitters. When Font got the call to Frisco, he made ten relief appearances for the RoughRiders. Font struck out 29 Texas League hitters in fifteen innings of work while allowing seven walks and nine hits. The low WHIP and the high strikeout rate are both promising.
Font made three appearances for the Rangers in September of 2012, two against the Angels and one versus the Athletics – all in relatively low-pressure contexts. During his brief stint in the majors, Font displayed a fastball that sat 95-96 mph. He struggled with his curve ball as it either ended up in the dirt or spinning high. The best secondary pitch he made was an 83 mph change up to Albert Pujols that was well located down in the zone. Font had a hard time with his control walking four in his two innings of work. The highlight of his September call-up came against Mike Trout. Font froze Trout with a 96 mph fastball placed low in the zone for a called third strike.
Wilmer Font’s velocity and strikeout rates are reason enough to be excited about his long-term ceiling as a relief pitcher in the Texas bullpen. 2013 should offer Font an opportunity to gain experience at the major league level and to develop his secondary stuff into at least decent big league pitches. His ability to strike out opposing hitters with his velocity makes him an obvious fit for a high leverage late inning role down the line. Font’s development with Texas in 2013 will be interesting to monitor as the Rangers bullpen, as it is currently constituted, may be in need of an infusion of talent with the departures of veterans Adams and Uehara.