Julio Urías – Another Reason to Watch Baseball… Like We Needed One

It was a very productive Spring Training for Julio Urías. The 22-year-old lefthander threw 15.2 innings over 5 starts in the Cactus league – posting a 1.72 ERA and a 0.51 WHIP. His 15 strikeouts compared to just 3 walks went a long way in alleviating fears of any lingering effects of the shoulder injury that cost him all of the 2017 season and limited him to only 4 innings last year. Urías put an exclamation point on his spring statement with 4 perfect innings against the Angels last Tuesday.

Urías needed only 42 pitches to deal with Mike Trout and the Halos that evening and generate headlines like “Julio Urias dominates in final spring start”, and “Julio Urias looks sharp in Dodger’s 9-2 exhibition win over the Angels”. But how impressive was Urías’ performance really?

As much as we like to rely on numbers and as advanced the metrics have become over the years, certain things just don’t show up in box scores. I would like to take you through the first inning of this outing at-bat by at-bat to see if it influences our opinions about Urías.

Kole Calhoun

Count Pitch Intended Location Actual Location Result
0-0 Fastball 94 MPH Down and Away Up and In Fouled Back
0-1 Changeup 84 MPH Down and Away Down/Middle Ball
1-1 Fastball 95 MPH Down and Away Up and In Ball
2-1 Fastball 94 MPH Down and In Up and In Fouled Back
2-2 Changeup 84 MPH Down and In Down and In Swing and Miss

In this at-bat Urías missed his location on four out of five pitches and twice elevated balls on the inner half of the zone that Calhoun should have driven. This might just be me projecting from my own failings as a pitcher (a charitable categorization in its own right), but there seem to be a lot of younger players missing up and to their arm side in the early stages of 2019. It’s not a new problem by any stretch, but as the levels of velocity and movement required to earn a big-league job has increased, it’s something I’m noticing more. We saw it prominently in Jack Flaherty’s first start against the Brewers, and it could be a contributing factor to Urías lack of command in this at-bat. The encouraging thing is that the combination of his fastball velocity and plus change-up might over-match league-average lefties like Calhoun.

Mike Trout

Count Pitch Intended Location Actual Location Result
0-0 Fastball 95 MPH Down and In Belt High Inner-Half Groundout 4-3

Baseball is fun isn’t it? Urias misses his spot and puts one on a tee for the best player in the game, who promptly hits a rocket right to the second-basemen, playing shortstop in a shift, and is thrown out. But hey, anyway you get Mike Trout out is a win.

Andrelton Simmons

Count Pitch Intended Location Actual Location Result
0-0 Fastball 96 MPH Down and Away Down and Away Ball
1-0 Fastball 95 MPH Down and Away Down and Away Strike
1-1 Slider 87 MPH Down and In Down and In Ball
2-1 Fastball 95 MPH Down and In Up and In Fly Out

Urías started to get into more of a groove with this sequence to Simmons, and his slider looks firm with a tighter break than in years past. That said, the pitch that Andrelton hit to Joc Pederson was a mistake that he was just late on. It very easily could have been a double down the line.

This exercise shows that Urías might not have been as amazing as the numbers said he was. What I saw in Urías is a young pitcher whose body is maturing, and his stuff is improving accordingly. I am concerned that he has not taken as great of a stride with his command. It’s great that his pitches are around the zone, but if he can ever really start spotting up a mid-90s fastball and quality change-up from the left-side, lookout.

The first couple of starts for Urías could tell us a lot about whether or not we are looking at someone poised for a huge breakout or a player who is making solid but maybe not remarkable improvements to his game. Certain players warrant getting eyes on to make sure that the numbers are telling the truth. Julio is taking the mound against the Giants tonight at 7:10 Pacific. I know I’ll be watching.

 

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Jake Blodgett

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Like most of you I am addicted to fantasy baseball. Since I spend most of my time talking about it, I figured I would write some of my thoughts down. I am a shameless promoter of Mike Trout and an even more shameless Shohei Ohtani apologist.