Dodgers super-prospect Julio Urias has received a ton of attention this past offseason, appearing at #8 on MLB.com’s top 100 list and #6 on Grading on the Curve’s prospect rankings. The 18-year old spent his first two professional seasons dominating hitters in Full-A and Advanced-A ball, leaving no doubt that he was ready to move up the Minor League ladder.
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Starting the year with the Double-A Tulsa Drillers, the Mexican born phenom has picked up where he left off last year. His latest outing on Monday may have been his most impressive yet, striking out 10 batters over 6 innings while allowing just one hit and not walking anybody. Overall, he has posted a 2.18 ERA and 0.77 WHIP over 20.2 innings, striking out 26 and walking just three. The lefthander looks about as polished as any teenage pitcher I’ve seen in recent memory, and could be a guy who makes the Majors at a very young age.
Urias offers a devastating three pitch repertoire that makes batters look silly. His fastball sits in the mid 90’s, with solid life to it. His off-speed pitchers are also very effective, combining a swing and miss curveball with a deceptive changeup. His 110 strikeouts in 87 innings last year proved that his stuff was too good for the lower Minors, despite still being a teenager. The one thing that he had to work on from last year is mastering his command a little bit better, as he had given up some walks in key situations. However, seeing as he has only walked three batters so far this year, it seems like he is in complete control on the mound.
As the Dodgers continue to limit his innings (he hasn’t pitched into the 7th inning yet this year), we shouldn’t expect the youngster to make any serious strides towards the Majors in 2015. The team has no reason to rush him, given his age and the current state of the Major League roster. The easy comparison for Urias is former Dodgers lefthander Fernando Valenzuela, another Mexican pitcher who was able to make his Major League debut at age 20. Nowadays, teams like to take it slow with starting pitchers, so you rarely see them in the big leagues at that age. Urias is a guy who can definitely buck that trend, as he has done nothing but dominate since pitching professionally.
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The Dodgers will keep Urias in Double-A for 2015, but I think that if age was not a factor, he could warrant a call-up to Triple-A by seasons end. It is easy to project the lefty to keep advancing quickly through the Minors, but the reality is that he hasn’t really had to endure a whole lot of struggles just yet. It remains to be seen how he will handle adversity moving forward, although he has the intangibles and the stuff to be an ace at the next level. He should continue to be fun to watch in Tulsa this summer as he mows down Double-A hitters.