Prior to his full-season debut against the Dayton Dragons on May 26, Julio Urias was just a name to me. Well, the 16-year old (17 in August) made his full season debut on Sunday facing a team that didn't have anyone fewer than three years older than him on their roster. He threw three innings, allowing only two hits and one walk while striking out six batters. Urias was signed out of Mexico late in the international signing period, though the dollar figure on his signing bonus is a bit hazy, as he was signed along with several other players. He didn't count much against the Dodgers international spending allotment though, despite a likely heft bonus, as only the amount that goes to the player (as opposed to the team) goes against the spending cap in these situations, as long as he is a Mexican born player.
When it comes to what Urias throws, he's a precocious talent, showing three pitches that have a chance at being plus. Prior to being signed, Urias threw an upper 80s to lower 90s fastball, and a change up that projected as plus as well. His curve would flash plus but was fairly inconsistent. At only six feet tall and a...mature build (you'll see) there might not be a ton of projection left in regards to the fastball.
On Sunday, Urias showed a little extra velocity on the fastball, ranging from 88-94 MPH as well as the ability to add some cut to the ball. He throws from a low three quarters arm slot which is going to be tough on left-handed batters. He also showed a propensity for throwing the fastball up in the zone (see below), especially with two strikes. This approach could net him a bunch of strikeouts, but could make him homer prone as he faces more advanced hitters.
I don't have a report on the velocity of the change up, but he shows feel for the pitch with good arm speed. He used the change effectively against right-handed batters in his debut, getting hitters to swing right over top of it. An advanced change up can eat up lower minors hitters, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Urias succeed in the minors despite his age.
While a fastball/change up combination can get a pitcher through the lower minors, an effective breaking ball is generally necessary for big league success. We've seen the Edwar Ramirez's of the world strike out a ton all the way through the minors, only to get knocked around at the upper levels. I'm hopeful that Urias won't fall into that mold as he flashed several impressive curveballs in his debut (see below), and had shown a feel for the pitch prior to being signed. Urias repeatedly busted lefties in on their hands with the curveball and showed no fear pitching inside in general.
I'm getting far, far ahead of myself even comparing Urias to someone like Edwar Ramirez. The bottom line is that it was an impressive teenage debut from a talented arm. No more and no less. The better comp in terms of performance and build is Roberto Osuna of the Toronto Blue Jays, who debuted in Short-Season ball with 5.1 innings and 13 strikeouts. Urias, like Osuna, is already mature in his build and doesn't project to add a ton of velocity. Urias has good command of his pitches and has shown the ability add or subtract to pitches as necessary. I'm not going to place any sort of expectations on the kid, but just say that it was incredible to watch someone so young dominate an older lineup the way he did. The next step will be turning a lineup over and extending his performance deeper into games. I took a flier on him in my 10-team NL-Only league with 30 man MiLB system (so 300 NL Minors players in total), but that's about as far as I'm willing to go on recommending an add. The range of outcomes for a player so young is extremely wide. If you've got a penchant for risk and plenty of patience (as well as confidence that your league will exist in 4-6 years), then Urias might be your kind of guy. Otherwise, add him to your watch list and let him develop on someone elses dime.
*Thanks to MiLB.com for the video feed from which I took the GIFs
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