Wilmer Font came to Tampa Bay from Oakland last May via waiver claim, and after a rough introduction, settled in nicely for the Rays. Since his trade from Oakland, Font posted a 1.67 ERA in (SSS Alert!!) 27.0 Innings for the Rays over nine game (five starts) in 2018.
He was then sidelined with a lat strain, and struggled when facing batters upon his return to the Rays in Spring Training this year. The Rays added him to the roster anyway, and in his first appearance of the season, on April 1 against Colorado, Font came into the game after Ryan Yarborough and gave up an immediate double to Nolan Arenado. Font was able to get the next batter out by fouling out, but he didn’t throw any strikes.
Then the Rays let him try again the next day, and Font looked like a different pitcher.
Wilmer Font sits the Rockies down 1-2-3 in the 9th, and the @RaysBaseball shut out the Rockies for their fifth straight win! #RaysUp #RaysWin pic.twitter.com/Kx3uj55JLV— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 3, 2019
He was able to go through three Rockies batters and preserve a 4-0 lead for the Rays. We could focus on many aspects of his two-inning dominance, where he allowed just one base runner via a walk, but the most important part is his fastball velocity.
On his first outing on April 1, the fastball was sitting lower than expected, which is bad news for a guy recovering from injury. Thankfully, his stuff seemed to have bounced back in his second outing:
It is still early in the season, but Font’s fastball is almost 2 MPH faster than his last outing, which seems to be a return to “normal.”
We can’t solidly say Font’s FB velocity is up to his career velocity (yet), but it is getting there!
Font’s FB velocity already ranks in the 75th percentile in the MLB according to Baseball Savant. With no options, the Rays are forced to roll with Font in the bullpen, but by forging yet another formidable weapon in Font, the Rays could form a very dangerous bullpen with a lot of options at Cash’s disposal.
Whether or not Font stays in the bullpen or is used as a Bulk inning option after an opener, another hard-ish throwing option is a good problem for Cash to have.