Is Julio Urias Ready For The Big Leagues?

When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades.  There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.

The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades.   -Kiley

Julio Urias, LHP, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (LAD, High-A – most recently viewed 8/18 at Lancaster)

The Mexican-born Urias signed at age 16  in August 2012 as part of a package deal from his local club (a very typical setup) where he was the headline player, drawing a rumored $1.5-2.0 million fee.  It’s unclear how much of that actually went to Urias: the percentage the player receives in these Mexican League arrangements is sometimes comically low.

Urias was a polarizing prospect at this time with not many teams interested at a seven figure price point as he was a maxed-out lefty that sat around 90 with solid-average stuff and advanced command:a back-end starter at best without much to dream on.  On top of that, Urias had a serious condition in his left eye (and still does–check out his official photo) after a tumor was removed and some teams were worried about future blindness, though it doesn’t appear to be a problem now.

Urias signed out of Mexico a few months after the Dodgers plucked Yasiel Puig from his unfortunate Mexican experience and Urias’ velocity exploded, making him a premium prospect overnight.  Those two transactions could conservatively create nine figures of surplus value for the Dodgers and help define the new era/ownership of the club as more than just buying players at any price.  Urias now sits in the low to mid-90’s with three plus pitches and advanced command (and just turned 18) with an even more amazing origin story than Puig and singular enough talent to create another Fernando-mania on his own.

Fastball: 60/65, Curveball: 60/65, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 45/55   -Kiley

Julio Urias is making great strides towards reaching his lofty expectations, and all things considered, the recently turned 18-year-old may be in Los Angeles sooner than anyone could have anticipated.                                                                                                      

Fastball: 55/65

Urias immediately showed an explosive fastball that worked 93-94 mph while touching 95-96 mph a half-dozen times in his first three innings of work. He held the velocity just fine, still working with a plus fastball that touched 94 mph in the last frame of his five-inning outing, which is a testament to his arm strength.

On the rare occasion a batter would reach base, the fastball velocity would dip by one or two ticks. But in two-strike situations, the opposite occurred, as he would reach back for 95-96 mph in order to record a strikeout or induce weak contact. The fastball possesses sharp life as it reaches the plate, and judging by the hitters’ reactions and swings, the pitch also gets on them quickly.

The command and control did get a little loose, specifically arm side. It’s a safe bet to settle in at plus sooner rather than later, with improving command and concentration on its way with further maturation.

Curveball: 55/65

Urias went to the curveball less than his other pitches, and thankfully so, as high-A hitters simply don’t have a chance at squaring up the 77-82 mph offering when it’s on. The pitch shows consistent plus action while flashing even better than that, due to its short, sudden two-plane break. It bites hard and wraps around the plate late, subsequently creating heavy depth and deception. The pitch is a weapon against same and opposite-side batters.

The half-grade knock on its present grade is due to command that needs additional sharpening. The pitch could also get a little loose in terms of tightness, perhaps getting caught between his two breakers. Both those issues will be resolved in due time, because of the incredible amount of feel for the offering and ability to harness its vicious action for strikes.

Slider: 50/50+

This is Urias’ second breaking ball, with bigger break and sweeping action compared to his curveball. It’s certainly a quality offering, and I did consider grading it a little higher, but I decided not to because I question its utility at the highest level. The pitch lacks the strength or overwhelming power his curveball does as it enters the zone, instead staying on one-plane without a significant amount of tilt, becoming a sweeping pitch. It won’t be a weapon his other offerings could be against opposite-side batters, and I think big league hitters will be able to do relatively well even when fooled.

Changeup: 55/65

The advancement of the changeup is the one area where Urias has improved in the most. Even the worst changeups he threw I graded as solid-average, but it was consistently above-average to plus throughout the outing. He commanded arm side and down with the pitch, too, while varying its movement between arm-side fade and darting action to sudden fall-off-the-table vertical drop. The action depends on the arm slot, and this is easily noticeable in the embedded video above.

At its best, the low-80s offering possesses the look of a fastball due to consistent arm speed. But the pitch would feature heavy sink until its sudden, unfair vertical drop that would lead to empty swings from batters whether the pitch was in or out of the zone.

Command: 45/55

As previously mentioned, the fastball command and control can get a little loose, but it is there in flashes and of course, this is an 18-year-old pitcher. The slider and changeup command is there, however, and the curveball arm-side command is as well.

The overall command will indeed reach solid-average as he is further able to mature as a person and pitcher, which also means facing better competition. Even when he doesn’t locate, the stuff is so good that it is rarely squared up, let alone put into play. He will manipulate his arm slot by design, but that does make repeating and commanding a four-pitch arsenal more difficult for any starting pitcher.

In regards to the delivery, there are plenty of strengths at which to look. There is rhythm and momentum driving towards home plate immediately at leg lift. He isn’t lacking for deception because of how much body is being worked into the delivery. The arm drops immediately into action after separation, wasting very little to no time, thus helping his arm to get into position on time. The hip rotation is very powerful, but the back leg can get lazy and force him to fall off towards first base at times, thus affecting his command and control. He can get away from his lead glove at times, too, but that’s just nitpicking.

Summary

The questions I had earlier in the year with Urias were in regards to his physical build. I thought it could be a body that would need maintaining, because it displayed a good amount of thickness to his lower half. He looks thinned out some and even a little taller from earlier in the season, which only helps silence my durability questions.

There is no questioning the stuff, however, as it is an arsenal consisting of three present above-average plus offerings with a solid-average fourth. Based on pure action, it’s a pair of plus pitches with a third on its way in the very near future, and the fourth and final offering being a quality change of pace type. The stuff and command is here for a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.

It is safe to say he absolutely doesn’t belong in High-A. So, where does he belong? To answer my own question, Urias is a “now” pitcher rather than a projection play, so I do think he could hold his own and then some in a big league rotation while flashing incredible potential. With that in mind, I wouldn’t want to waste too many of Urias’ bullets in his left arm in the minor leagues, where he will chew up the competition.



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IG: ERICSTONEE
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IG: ERICSTONEE
2 years 27 days ago

Why does FanGraphs ask us so many questions?

Kiley McDaniel
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2 years 27 days ago

How does that make you feel?

Phillies' Front Office
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Phillies' Front Office
2 years 27 days ago

I’m Ron Shah?

Bugs Bunny
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Bugs Bunny
2 years 27 days ago

My name is Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire. I own a mansion and a yacht.

Mookie Betts
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Mookie Betts
2 years 27 days ago

nice

Heyward > Posey
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Heyward > Posey
2 years 27 days ago

Another great article Ron!

MustBunique
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Member
2 years 27 days ago

Good stuff guys. Hope we see him sooner rather than later, nice to see he’s already developed a good curve and change. I’m guessing the fastball is a four-seamer. Is that the only FB he throws?

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 27 days ago

How much of a question mark is his ability to maintain his stuff over a full game? Just peering at the game log, he’s only pitched into the 6th once in his life.

Do we really know whether he’ll be able to keep the same level of velocity, command and control when he gets up to 80, or even 90, pitches?

That would be my main concern in rushing him to the majors before he’s built his innings up.

Steve
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Steve
2 years 26 days ago

I think the slider grade is very light. I saw his last start in LE and the slider is very much an F You pitch. Was with a couple of pro guys, one put a 7 on it.

Steve
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Steve
2 years 26 days ago

he really featured the SL in that start too

brentdaily
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Member
brentdaily
2 years 26 days ago

Great piece Ron. Seeing his grades makes me wonder what’s preferable – 4 plus pitches or 2 plus plus and 2 average assuming command/control are the same.

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