The Los Angeles Dodgers’ official Twitter account tweeted early Thursday morning that Friday afternoon’s scheduled starter, Alex Wood, was expected to miss his turn in the rotation due to left triceps soreness. Before there was even time for speculation, the Dodgers then tweeted who Wood’s replacement for Friday’s game would be:
Julio Urias, at just 19 years old (DOB: 8/12/1996), has been regarded as one of the top prospects in the game since he was signed out of Mexico in 2012 just shortly after his 16th birthday. Urias made his professional debut in 2013 (his age-16 season), posting a 2.48 ERA in 54.1 innings with Class-A Great Lakes of the Midwest League. At the time, Urias was 5.8 years younger than the average player in the Midwest League.
Prior to the 2014 season, Urias was ranked as the #35 prospect in the game by Baseball Prospectus, and #51 by Baseball America. He spent the entire season with Class-A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga of the California League – a notoriously hitter-friendly league – and worked to the tune of 2.36 ERA over 87.2 innings of work. That season, the Cal League’s average ERA was 4.60, a mark that Urias nearly slashed in half.
Still entering just his age-18 season, Urias climbed the preseason prospect leaderboards prior to 2015, coming in at the #10 spot in both Baseball Prospectus’ and Baseball America’s rankings. Urias made appearances in four different leagues last year, ranging from Rookie level to Triple-A, and posted a cumulative ERA of 3.81. This number was inflated most egregiously by two poor starts at Triple-A in which he combined to allow nine earned runs over two starts and 4.1 innings. He spent the bulk of his season at Double-A Tulsa, where he notched a 2.77 ERA in 68.1 innings.
Urias again climbed the prospect leaderboard before this year, coming in at #6 on Baseball Prospectus’ list and #8 on Baseball America’s. Making all eight appearances (seven starts) this season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Urias has reached new heights this year, posting a minuscule 1.10 ERA in 41.0 innings of work, while still being an even eight years younger than the average Pacific Coast League player.
Urias, a left-hander, features three legitimate plus pitches in his arsenal. His fastball is his primary weapon, sitting in the low-to-mid 90’s and occasionally reaching as high as 97. His changeup is his secondary offering, featuring excellent arm-side movement and velocity separation from his fastball. His sharp-breaking curveball is his third offering, though most scouts agree the pitch has the potential to be better than his changeup. Urias has excellent feel for all three pitches, and is able to manipulate all three pitches by changing his arm angle and speed without sacrificing effectiveness. Urias’ delivery has also been described as deceptive to batters, which plays up his excellent arsenal even more.
Urias’ biggest concern heading into 2016 was his command, which has been average coming up through the minors but showed signs of shakiness last season, particularly in his stint at Triple-A (six walks in 4.1 innings). So far this season, Urias has make excellent strides in improving that part of his game, and has posted a career-low 1.8 walks per nine innings while still striking out nearly ten batters per nine (9.7 K/9).
Prior to this year, Urias’ career-high innings mark in professional baseball was 87.2, set back in 2014. Last season, he threw just 80.1 total innings due to missing almost two months after cosmetic eye surgery. Due to the nature of the game with regards to handling young (and especially talented) arms, it’s not likely that Urias will see too much time in the majors this year. However, while he’s pitching in Wood’s absence, Dodgers fans will get a surely satisfying taste of the future of their rotation behind Clayton Kershaw.
Urias, at 19 years and 289 days old, will become the youngest player to make his major-league debut since Jurickson Profar debuted at 19 years and 195 days on September 2, 2012 (the exact same age Bryce Harper debuted at on April 28 of that season).