Wilmer Font. RHP, 6' 4", 210 lbs, Born: May 24, 1990. The Texas Rangers signed man-child Wilmer Font out of Venezuela during the 2006 international signing season only a couple of months after he turned 16. Font is an extremely raw talent still, but parts of his game are starting to show signs of polish.
Font can run his fastball into the upper 90s, and he has shown very promising off-speed pitches in his change up and curveball. The part he has struggled with to this point has been control. In just over 65 innings of stateside work, Font has allowed only 53 hits while striking out 82, but he has also allowed 35 walks. That's not all. More than 20 batters, possibly 30 or more, have reached base via hit-by-pitch against Font. (Does anyone know the actual HBP numbers? I couldn't find them.)
There's no questioning his stuff, though. Still not quite 19 years old, Font has plenty of time to work on refining his it. Those signs of polish I spoke of? Over Font's last two appearances (both of them starts, with limited pitch counts) spanning 8.2 innings, Font allowed only 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8, hitting 0 batters, and throwing only 1 wild pitch.
This 210 fps video is from a March 19, 2009 spring training appearance in a Low A game.
The first two things I noticed were the large reverse rotation of his shoulders and how far he takes the ball toward first base. In this video, you can very easily see what pitch Font is about to throw. At full speed, I know this is harder to see, but his change up still has to be a dead give away.
Font's stride is slightly closed, and his back leg appears to be driving across his landing leg pretty powerfully. In the video, it almost looks like the front of his back leg is driving into the side of his landing leg. Pitchers typically put a lot of torque on their landing hips, but Font seems to be pushing the limit. I have no way to measure it or even estimate it, but I know it looks bad.
His front foot lands slightly open despite his closed front hip. Font had a knee injury last season. This little quirk could either be the result or the cause of that injury.
He pulls his front shoulder a little bit before driving his pitching shoulder forward, but the timing is still pretty good as evidenced by his mid-to-upper-90s fastball.
Because of his massive reverse shoulder rotation, Font has to drive his pitching shoulder a long way toward third base before it really starts moving toward the plate. As a result, his elbow and hand have even longer paths to travel. The short of it is that Font has extreme forearm flyout, and since his release is in a low-3/4 arm slot, his ulna's olecranon process is at the mercy of his eccentrically contracting brachialis.
At 210 frames per second, Font's hand is still moving too fast for me to conclusively say whether he does or does not pronate through his release, but it looks like he does not pronate on any of his pitches.
I like his follow-through a lot. It is similar to that of Neftali Feliz (featured previously) and that of Evan Reed (below). Thanks to strong shoulder rotation, Font avoids wrapping his arm across his trunk. His primary deceleration is handled chiefly by his latissimus dorsi, and afterward, very little deceleration is required to bring the arm to a complete stop.
Evan Reed. RHP, 6' 4", 225 lbs, Born: December 31, 1985. Drafted out of Cal Poly by the Texas Rangers in the third round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Evan Reed had been a closer, but he was promptly pushed into the short-season Spokane rotation after a quick start. Reed earned a promotion to Low A Clinton after only 7 appearances. His strikeout rate dropped from 11.7 per 9 innings to only 5.0 per 9 innings, but his results improved everywhere else.
2008 saw Reed struggle in the High A Bakersfield rotation. He has special stuff, but he struggles to control it. His fastball is typically a 92-95 mph pitch that often looks like it's moving faster when it gets to the plate than when it left his hand - amazing life. Reed's off-speed pitches have looked like pitches with plus potential at times, but more often than not, he has struggled to harness the two.
Walks and deep counts hurt Reed's pitch counts and his ERA, so the Rangers moved him back to the bullpen for 2009 - for now, at least. Still only 23, Reed has the stuff to make up ground and jump back into a rotation, but he needs to find a way not only to control his stuff but to command it as well.
Reed has a very powerful looking stride, but if you pause the video at foot plant, you can see that his power is directed at the [off-center] camera instead of the plate. This is inefficient but pretty common. A closed landing like this can cut off hip rotation, but Reed pulls himself forward and is able to open his hips almost directly toward the plate before he releases the ball. Try pausing the video at pitch release, and then look at his hips.
Thanks to his excellent hip rotation, Reed is able to get excellent shoulder rotation as well. Part of his excellent shoulder rotation is due to the way he flexes his trunk across his driveline. Because he strides closed, he has to drive across that stride line to get the ball to the plate. This is more inefficient than it is injurious, but it can add stress to the landing hip and lower back.
His pick-up is a little better than average, but it isn't particularly close to the pendulum swing that I like. Reed pushes down, straightening his pitching arm, and away, but instead of continuing the swinging action, he picks the ball straight up with some active external rotation.
Reed's arm is up and ready by the time his shoulders start to rotate, but the external rotation from his pick-up creates some layback inertia that is amplified by his rotating shoulders. This results in a reverse forearm bounce where the ball is moving toward first base while Reed's elbow is moving toward third base.
From that point forward, Reed's mechanics look to be well above average. His shoulder tilt helps him pick up his arm into a more vertical position to help reduce the effects of forearm flyout, and he seems to pronate through the release of every pitch in this video. Reed's follow-through is very good thanks to his excellent shoulder rotation. His arm wraps across his torso rather gently after his back and rotator cuff have taken care of primary deceleration.
Reed also bears an uncanny resemblence to fellow Texas Rangers RHP prospect Thomas Diamond.