Dodgers Prospects: Does Wilmer Font Deserve a Big League Spot Start?

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(Mandatory Credit: Jacob Derichsweiler/The Oklahoman)

With arguably three of the club’s best starting arms currently on the shelf, it’s difficult to believe that the Dodgers still continue to perform at a tremendous rate of success. And despite a nightmarish impromptu start from young righty Brock Stewart against the Pirates on Tuesday evening, the powerful Los Angeles bats lived up to their high profile billing, guiding the squad to its 89th victory of the year. What a shame it is, though, that the offense was unable to muster just a single run in support of Rich Hill‘s spectacular pitching exhibition on Wednesday night.

Regardless, the good news is that the injuries to the big guns of the rotation aren’t that significant. Righty Yu Darvish is scheduled to return at home against the Brewers on Sunday, with both Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood conceivably eyeing to rejoin the team not long down the road. In the interim, the Dodgers may decide to turn to Ross Stripling for a spot start on Saturday, hoping to get at least three solid innings before turning to the remainder of the bullpen to finish the game.

Now that the club’s No. 1 prospect, Walker Buehler, has been working in relief for Triple-A Oklahoma City, there’s little chance that the righty will be called upon to start a big league contest anytime soon. However, there is another hard-throwing right-hander, 27-year-old Wilmer Font, who may deserve a promotion more than anyone else in the organization.

Although he may be a few years removed from the typical prospect age, Font continues to impress on the bump for OKC. Against Tacoma earlier in August, he punched out seven batters to set the all-time Oklahoma City strikeout record, which now stands at 170 and counting. The previous record was held by Matt Perisho, who struck out 150 in 1999.

On top of 11.2 K/9, the Venezuela native has posted a 3.58 ERA in addition to his nine wins in the hitter-friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League. He represented Oklahoma City in the Triple-A All-Star game last month, and was named as PCL Player of the Week twice — once for the week ending on May 21, and the other for the week ending July 14.

As far as his arsenal goes, Font has a fastball which sits in the mid-90s, a curve, a quality slider, a decent change, and a splitter which has nasty downward break. More importantly, his heater has a tremendous amount of carry, and elevates through the entire path of his delivery, even when crossing the plate. Needless to say, the high heat has been the chief weapon in tallying the high number of strikeouts this year.

OKC pitching coach Matt Herges has nothing but good things to say about Font, and undoubtedly believes the righty is ready to deliver when joining the big league pitching staff.

“He’s knocking that door down, he’s pushing that envelope as well as anyone I’ve ever seen who’s not been on a roster, he’s forcing their hand big time,” Herges told Craig Minami of True Blue LA earlier in the summer. “I’m pushing for it, I don’t make those decisions, but anytime they ask me, this guy is ready, he’s ready to roll.”

Even if he’s passed over as a starter, Herges believes that Font has the talent to succeed as a big league reliever, most specifically as a middle innings guy.

“That’s something that I think about, I mean he could sit on 99, he’s got that in him, I mean he’s touching 97 multiple times a game,” Herges added. “That’s why I think it would work in any role, the ability to land a curveball, the ability to control both sides of the plate with his slider and the split-finger is rarely thrown for a strike and with the elite elevation, there’s not a role he can’t do in my mind.”

Yet despite the amazing year’s he’s had to this point, Font still doesn’t have a spot on the club’s 40-man roster, the primary reason he hasn’t seen any big league action this season. But with guys like Fabio Castillo, Luis Ysla and Jordan Jankowski ahead of him right now, the front office may decide to do some maneuvering in an effort to get Font to the majors when rosters expand on September 1.

Whatever role he would conceivably play, Font certainly has the goods to impress — if he’s just given the chance.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

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