Stats down tell the whole story. Take Julio Urias’ first seven big league starts, for example. He’s 1-2 with a 4.09 ERA, 3.62 FIP and 1.46 WHIP. He’s struck out 41 and walked 15 over 33 innings. And he’s also a 19-year-old phenom bound for superstardom.
Lazy fans and analysts will simply look at the numbers Urias is posting and mutter about unmet expectations, a rushed promotion and anything else under the sun. But try something crazy here: watch him actually pitch. Notice the arm action. The deception. The high pitching IQ. The willingness to throw off speed pitches in fastball situation. That pickoff move. That curveball. That fastball. That disappearing change up.
He’s the real deal. Through his first handful of starts, Urias had been touched up by a few batters, but had also allowed a below-average exit velocity. And though he walked six batters, Urias was finally rewarded with his first big league win this week in Milwaukee. Even when he’s wild, the proof that he’s a difficult pitcher to hit is in the pudding.
Perhaps most shockingly, Urias seems unfazed by the pressure. He has made himself at home as a regular cog in the Dodgers’ rotation, and his work to this point has been season-saving, considering the plethora of injuries the team is facing. For a player who’s still a teenager, it’s his most impressive trait.
Maybe that’s what fans should have expected with Urias, though. The comparisons to Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela were there from day one, when the then-16-year-old Mexican lefty inked a deal with the Dodgers.
In three short years, Urias has come a long way, and by all indications has a long way to go, too. Assuming he stays healthy, he is only going to improve. He’ll harness the wildness, maybe add a pitch and could certainly add a tick to the speed of his fastball.
The mechanics and makeup are already there. They say the mental aspect of pitching is half the battle, and Urias is way ahead of the curve. If the other half is purely the ability to make batters swing and miss, Urias is also way ahead of where he should be at such a young age.
Picture this: a 22-year-old Urias with a fully-developed arm, spinning tight curveballs, dipping change-ups and blowing 97-mph fastballs by unsuspecting batters. Picture the rare runner that does reach getting picked off by one of Urias’ slick moves.
That’s all hypothetical and may seem far-fetched, but if you’ve watched him pitch, you’d realize this isn’t some utopian fantasy. He is already one of the most intriguing arms in baseball and has the stuff to become a top-tier hurler very soon.
If Kershaw and Koufax and Valenzuela were prodigies in their own rights, maybe we should trust the Dodgers in developing young left-handed talent. Maybe we should realize that Urias is just another in a long line of pitchers raised through the team’s system and bound to be one of the league’s brightest stars.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this at all.