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Wilmer Font is the best pitcher in AAA you’ve probably never heard of

This Dodgers non-prospect has been lighting AAA on fire this season, racking up 109 Ks in just 75 innings. What’s his story? When will he be pitching in LA?

Texas Rangers v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Unless you are one of the following:

  • crazy Dodgers fan
  • resident of the Oklahoma City metro area
  • a crazy dynasty league player that scours AAA leaderboards looking for diamonds in the rough

You probably haven’t heard of the subject of today’s post. He’s got a unique name and a long story. No, it’s not Wayne Fontes, former Detroit Lions head coach. Although that’s weirdly close. It’s actually Wilmer Font. Not Wilmer Times New Roman or Wilmer Helvetica or Wilmer Arial, just Wilmer Font. C’mon, who doesn’t love a good typeface joke?

Anyway, let’s get right to why I am excited about this guy in 2017, then we can cover his history.

Right now, just bask in these 2017 numbers:

75 IP 109 K 20 BB 1.07 WHIP 3.84 ERA 5.45 K/BB

*basking ensues *

Ok, so maybe that ERA isn’t great, but keep in mind he pitches in the Pacific Coast League, home to some crazy hitters parks like Las Vegas, El Paso, Colorado Springs, etc. That 3.84 ERA is 7th best in the PCL. Just to put that K/BB ratio into perspective, though, that would be 8th best in MLB right now, just behind Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer. I’m not saying he could do that at the next level, I’m just saying it is rare at any level to do that.

Where did he come from? Venezuela. Next question. Ok, maybe I’ll expand a little. He was signed in 2007 as an international free agent by the Rangers and came up as a starter in their system. However, walks plagued him and he amassed just 3.1 innings as a reliever at the MLB level during his entire time with Texas. He was eventually cut in 2014. Instead of signing with an MLB team, he played in Venezuela and with a Canadian independent league team in 2015.

I guess playing in Canada helped him out because the Blue Jays signed him in 2016. It did not go well. He pitched very well once he was demoted to AA, but stunk in AAA and a 26-year-old is expected to do well in AA. So, he was cut again and again headed to play in Venezuela and Canada. Finally, the Dodgers signed him in 2017 and assigned him to AAA Oklahoma City.

That’s a long and winding road. He’s 27 now and has clearly taken a step forward. He throws 94 mph with strong fastball command, according to Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs. This great post over at True Blue LA involves an interview with the Oklahoma City pitching coach, Matt Herges. Herges says that Font is throwing his excellent high fastball more, which is leading to his success, along with throwing his curveball for strikes.

Whatever it is, it’s working and he’s better than he ever has been. For us fantasy players dreaming on all those Ks, there are three issues that are working against him getting meaningful starts this season in LA:

  1. The Dodgers have crazy rotation depth. Kershaw, Wood, McCarthy, Maeda, Hill, Ryu, Kazmir, Urias. I probably even forgot one. Yes, Rodd Stripling.
  2. Font is not on the 40-man roster. That means the Dodgers would need to kick someone off the roster to make room for him. They would only do that if they really need him.
  3. He’s old for a player making his debut as a starter and the Dodgers are in the middle of a playoff race. They might not want to take the risk when they have so many other options.

The good news is that most of the Dodgers pitchers are extremely injury prone. Kazmir is still on the DL, and Maeda, McCarthy, Hill, and Ryu have already been on the DL this year. Urias is on an innings limit as well. So, there’s hope. If he keeps pitching like this in AAA, they may have no choice but to see what he can do at the next level. There is no clear timetable for his arrival, but we can hope. Given the injury histories in the rotation, it’s not crazy that the Dodgers will need a 10th starter at some point.

This is an off-the-radar name to keep in the back of your head in case he gets the call. Keep both eyes on this guy. Tschus!