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What Did We Learn from the Two Phenom’s Short MLB Stints?

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We saw two hot prospect pitchers came up and struggled mightily this spring. Berrios and Urias are both back in the Minors, but now is a good time for us to make plans ahead for their future.

Even a truly talented one will have set backs in his career.
Even a truly talented one will have set backs in his career.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

On May 27th, the entire baseball community's eyes were on the young Dodgers lefty's debut. Julio Urias has been touted as the next Fernando Valenzaula (or Kershaw, or Koufax... All pretty overwhelming comparisons), but he failed to impress anyone. The Phenom only lasted for 2.2 innings and allowed three runs. He even left the game bases loaded only to be bailed out by Chris Hatcher (honestly Hatcher came into strike out Jacob deGrom. Urias was struggling, but he probably had a good chance to get the last guy out by himself).

He is now back in the Minors, and we probably won't see him anytime soon. He doesn't hold too much Fantasy value as of today, but it's a good time to make a plan for his future call-up as now we have actually seen him pitching.

We had a very similar case earlier this season. Jose Berrios, another highly regarded rookie made a season debut for the Twins, but he is also sent back down as he boasted 10.20 ERA in his four starts in MLB. These two guys were supposedly two most MLB ready pitchers, but somehow their short stints didn't go well.

There is a reason for every failure, and we need to know if their problems will be on-going issues. Let's investigate these two young pitchers' first missteps in their careers.

In the after game interview, Urias tried to find an explanation for his struggle.

"I thought some of them were in the zone. I have to look at the video to double check and see if they were strikes. [...] They're looking for specific pitches and sometimes I tried to fool them and I wasn't able to."

Urias's Strike and Batted Ball Distribution 2016

Strike%

Looking%

Swinging%

GB%

FB%

LD%

Minor

64.3%

19.5%

12.6%

42.3%

40.5%

17.1%

Major

51.9%

13.6%

6.2%

15.4%

61.5%

23.1%

Diff

-12.5%

-5.9%

-6.4%

-27.0%

21.0%

6.0%

He was spot on. His struggled to get strike counts in his first MLB start from both looking and swinging departments. He was also very lucky that none of the hard hit fly balls left the park. The hitters looked pretty confident against him as they easily put the center of the bat on any kind of pitches he threw.

I also saw that he threw number of pitches up in the zone. He probably intentionally threw many high fastballs to make his big curve ball more effective, but the hitters simply didn't even budge on his breaking balls (Neil Walker crushed the one that was perfectly dropped low inside corner. He easily adjusted his swing when he saw a slow curve ball was coming). With his under-developed high fastball / curveball combination, I'm actually surprised to see that his minors GB/FB this year is higher than 1. I know it's just one game, but at this point, I can't picture him being a ground ball pitcher if he continues with the same repertoire.

We obviously don't have enough data to jump on to any conclusion, but in his first start, his changeup didn't look ready, and his curveball wasn't sharp enough for hitters to swing through. 94 mph fastball is pretty good for a lefty starter, but he needs to polish his other weapons more if he wants to attack the upper part of the zone and still to get by the talented right handed hitters. The Dodgers probably saw the same thing and decided that the 19-year-old needs more time. He could still be could be a decent K-source, but he will get drilled often if he stays in the Majors. The kid obviously has a potential to be a star, but I don't think this is his year yet. Even if he gets the call later this season, I won't be too thrilled to add him on my roster.

Berrios's Strike and Batted Ball Distribution 2016

Strike%

Looking%

Swinging%

GB%

FB%

LD%

Minor

62.2%

21.0%

10.4%

35.4%

49.4%

15.2%

Major

58.6%

16.9%

10.0%

27.9%

50.0%

22.1%

Diff

-3.6%

-4.0%

-0.3%

-7.5%

0.6%

6.9%

On the other hand, in his four starts, Jose Berrios didn't have any trouble fooling the hitters as his swinging strike was same 10% at both Minors and Majors. As a result, he was able to achieve outstanding 12.0 K/9, and this shows that his stuff actually works in the Majors. He did struggle to get the strike calls, however, on a consistent basis, and he ended up walking horrendous 7.2 per 9 innings. He wasn't exactly a control artist this season at AAA either, so the high walk could stay as his issue for a foreseeable future.

His real problem in the Majors, however, was the home runs. He is a 50% fly ball pitcher in every level, so we should probably get used to his dingers. His 29.4% HR/FB should be adjusted lower, but 1+ HR/9 is probably a fair expectation for the young righty.

He should get another shot pretty soon especially as the Twins aren't going anywhere this year, and his K-rate alone makes him an intriguing asset. The owners, however, should acknowledge that he needs to get his BB down in order to avoid any serious damages from his eventual long balls. If everything goes well, he should be able to replicate the numbers of Nicholas Tropeano or Justin Verlander, who are extreme fly ball pitchers with good K stuff but shaky controls, but I don't see him doing any better than those two, at least for this year.

Steamer Rest of the Season Ranking

Player

SP Rank

IP

W

ERA

WHIP

SO

Jose Berrios

119th

62

4

4.19

1.33

58

Julio Urias

135th

13

1

3.39

1.21

13