The Blue Jays unassuming opener

To say that Wilmer Font’s career has been a rollercoaster would probably be an understatement. After becoming a legitimate starting pitching prospect for the Rangers organization around a decade ago, Font ran into a few seasons that were defined by injuries.

As is often the case when questions of durability arise, this led to his conversion to the bullpen. As a reliever, Font ultimately earned a cup-of-coffee in the Rangers big league bullpen. Following that, he was taken off the Rangers 40-man roster and bounced around affiliates in the Reds and Blue Jays minor league organizations. The intrigue for him as a prospect wasn’t there any more and by the end of his age 26 season he was pitching in independent ball in Canada.

Font’s success as a starter in non-affiliated ball led to a second chance in affiliated baseball, and ultimately a very successful 2017 season as a starting pitcher with Dodgers Triple-A club. At that point, he revived his status as a prospect which earned him a second trip to the major leagues.

He made the Dodgers roster in 2018 as a reliever, but after allowing 13 earned runs in 10 13 innings, he was designated for assignment and subsequently dealt to the Athletics in a minor trade. His fortunes didn’t improve with a new team though, as he posted four sub-par relief appearances leading to his availability for a second time in less than a month.

Font was then acquired by the Rays, where he finally hit his stride in the major leagues (1.67 ERA, 3.98 FIP in 27 innings). A lat strain cut his season short in July though, once again making it hard to find consistent performance. His success with the Rays in 2018 was ultimately enough to earn him a spot on the following season’s Opening Day roster, but after putting up a 5.79 ERA in 14 relief appearances, he was again designated for assignment and traded to the Mets for cash considerations shortly after.

His tenure in New York lasted only for about two months though, and for a third time in the past two seasons, he was designated for assignment and dealt via trade, this time to the Blue Jays.

In his first few appearances with the Blue Jays, he was pitching in a low-leverage relief role, but with a few decent appearances there, he took on the role of a multi-inning opener. His last eight appearances have started a game. Six of those appearances have gone exactly two innings, with a single one not going over 2 13 frames. His results in this new role have been fantastic (15 13 innings, 1.76 ERA, 2.10 FIP) and signal him as one of baseball’s most recently successful pitchers.

Among 145 pitchers with at least 15 innings pitched in the month of August, here’s where Font’s results rank.

  • ERA: 12th
  • FIP: 6th
  • K%: 2ndMost
  • BB%: 90th
  • K-BB%: 8th
  • HR/9: 20th
  • Hard%: 5th

Out of 193 pitchers with at least 50 batters faced in the month of August, Font’s xwOBA of .223 is only higher than the marks of Gerrit Cole and Ryan Yarbrough. Most of this stems from his recently ability at avoiding hard-contact and lowering his rate of contact allowed.

FanGraphs

The main improvement in Font’s game his came from his four-seamer. From the beginning of the season up until June, it ranked among the worst in the game, as it allowed the sixth highest xwOBA among 269 pitchers with at least 30 results against their four-seamer in that time. Since then though, it has ranked among the best in the game, as among 333 pitchers with at least 30 results against their four-seamer in that time, it has allowed the 20th lowest xwOBA.

Baseball Savant

Noticeably, he’s adjusted the release point on this pitch, adding a tick of vertical movement and significantly lowering the horizontal release point on the offering.

Brooks Baseball

It seems likely that with the amount of his success Font has shown in his new role indicates he will stay in it for the foreseeable future. For now, he’s seemed to have fixed some of the issues on his four-seamer, and if those improvements stick, it’ll make it easier for him to find success with his secondary pitches, especially his signature curveball.

With the way Font’s career has gone so far, any run of success he comes across has to be taken with notice, but so far this has been his best one yet.


Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.

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