Mar 15, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias (84) throws in the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Saturday, I was able to see the low minors clubs for the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as the big league club. Today I will be seeing the Double-A and Triple-A teams, and will be doing a report of the guys I have seen through the system in a two part post, the first being this one.
I had heard Julio Urias would be throwing on Saturday, so naturally I made sure I was on the fields where the High-A club would be playing, as that is the club he is expected to be with this season. When I got there, I found no Urias, but instead found out he was getting the start in the big league game. While I was incredibly bummed I would not be able to see him in person, I was lucky enough to meet up with the guys from Dodgers Nation later that evening to talk about Urias and see some video of his start.
Urias is 17-years old, faced three established big league hitters, and none reached base. He started off by falling behind Will Venable with three straight balls, surely nerves were high for him at his point, but he showed his composure by battling back to strike him out. Chris Denorfia grounded out to third base, and Yonder Alonso struck out to end the inning. That was all Urias got to pitch, as he is still getting revved up for the season, but a 17-year old got in one inning against quality big league hitters, striking two out, and getting weak contact from another. I would say that is a decent first outing on a big league field.
Urias begins his windup with his glove pressed up against his face, but once he gets the sign and begins his windup, the glove drops to his waist, his pitching hand reaches into his glove, and his beautiful mechanics shine. He has a high leg kick as his body coils slightly back under complete balance before exploding forward. He throws with the arm in a solid 3/4 slot, and even finishes under complete control. His arm seemed to slow just the smallest bit on his breaking ball, but it is still good enough to get big league hitters out already, as he proved.
After the game, Urias spent a little over ten minutes with the media, and when asked what his goals were this season, he mentioned a goal of pitching in the big leagues. While he just might be able to do just that based on stuff, consistency, and composure, he still needs to build up the arm stamina. The Dodgers have been careful with Urias, giving him 18 starts last season, but only allowing him to go 54 innings. They will certainly begin to work him deeper into games this season, and don’t put it past the kid to pitch some in the big leagues in 2015 as an 18-year old.
Out on the backfields, James Baldwin was hard to miss. He was clearly the best athlete out there, showing his speed and skill with the glove as he got back on well hit line drives with ease, but then he came to the plate. His hips did not explode through the ball, in fact it seemed they just rocked back and forth, while his legs remained stiff at the plate. His upper body and lower body seemed completely out of sync at the plate, and his bat looked slow through the zone. When talking with Jared Massey, he said he could see an upside of a Drew Stubbs type, and while I think that is an excellent comp for Baldwin’s ceiling, I don’t ever see him developing that power. Baldwin will certainly steal plenty of bases, and can play an exceptional outfield, but unless his bat improves significantly, I see a ceiling of a quad-A type guy.
Then there was Justin Chigbogu. While not that tall, about 6’1″, he is a big boy, the 240 lbs. he is listed at is probably being kind. With a thick and stocky left-handed hitting first baseman like Chigbogu, one would expect to see a dead pull hitting power guy. While the power part is correct, the dead pull couldn’t be more inaccurate. He shot a ball between third and short for a single, took a big turn around first, getting nearly halfway to second before trotting back to the first base bag. I looked at my stopwatch to clear the time, and was shocked to see 4.56 seconds as the time at which he stopped his momentum towards second base. After talking to some coaches and other scouts around, it turns out Chigbogu is indeed surprisingly fast for his size, and will never clog up bases in the way you would expect just by glancing at him. He strikes out far too often and has a giant hole in his swing, but if he can get that hole closed up a bit, his swing can develop a ton of power. His defense is average at best, but for a guy that turns 20 in July and has yet to see a regular season above Rookie ball, there is a big league regular ceiling. He is also the type of guy that may never even see Double-A. Regardless, Chigbogu is a name to keep in mind for the future as he just might surprise and impress more and more people on his way through the Dodgers system.