Julio Urias is the prized gem on a talented Los Angeles Dodgers team because of his age and tremendous talent. He impressed in his rookie year, but there aren’t any fortified plans as to how they will handle him this season.
It’s no secret that Julio Urias is a vital cog in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ future. He has been called the next Fernando Valenzuela and has even been compared to ace Clayton Kershaw. They are both valid comparisons in the sense that they are both southpaws and at one point, highly-touted youngsters with ace potential. They both lived up to that billing, so fans and the front office are hoping Urias can follow suit. If last season was any indication, he is on track.
This gives the Los Angeles Dodgers front office even more reason to be supremely cautious with Urias. He is only 20 and made his debut at 19 years of age. He is the Dodgers’ second most talented starting pitcher, but he will not be used or treated as that. Rather, he will be handled as a top prospect (even though he technically isn’t). I mean, he is the proper age for that comparison.
Initially, there was talk of having Urias have his own extended spring training to limit his innings. This would also allow him to have some gas left in the tank if and when the Los Angeles Dodgers made the 2017 postseason. Now there is talk about the possibility that he starts the regular season with the major league team. It was just recently that Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts were noncommittal on how they were planning on using him this upcoming season.
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Last season marked the first time where Urias broke the 100-inning mark. He did so by throwing a combined 122 innings between Triple-A and the majors. Before that, his career high was 87.2 innings in 2014. So yes, that is a huge jump and he should and will be handled with caution.
The question now is whether or not he should start the regular season in the starting rotation. I do not see why not. In fact, I think he should. Him being on the roster gives the Dodgers the best chance at a strong start to the season. He won’t be making anything close to 30 starts, and with that in mind, the Dodgers are smart enough to plan out a way to have him start in the beginning but keep him fresh for the end of the season.
They should utilize their pitching depth (if they stay healthy) to eventually get to a point midseason where they space out his starts or place him in the bullpen so they can both keep him fresh and in-form at the same time. The front office handled it well last season, giving him extended rest as the end of July and beginning of September rolled around. They won’t have the luxury of a 40-man roster, but Friedman and company are smart enough to figure out how to work around that.
He deserves the chance of pitching in April and May, so the Dodgers should give it to him. My guess would be that he will probably throw somewhere in the range of 140-150 innings for the season. That may come with 20-25 starts and the rest from the bullpen. It all ultimately depends on how Julio Urias is handled and managed, and not when he starts pitching in 2017. Hopefully it does not get to the point where he gets shut down like Stephen Strasburg was in 2012. Los Angeles Dodgers fans do not want to be haunted like Washington Nationals fans were and continue to be.