It was a treat to see Julio Urias in spring training. I’ve attended three Quakes’ games before the May 16 game, and I had yet to see Urias. Luckily, I was able to catch him in Rancho Cucamonga, and I wasn’t disappointed.
His final line: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 64 pitches, 34 strikes, 5/1 ground out-to-fly out ratio.
Editor’s note: I am not a scout (#notascout). This is an amateur scouting report based on what I know about baseball and from following the sport all my life. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information to the masses. All ratings in the charts below are on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is roughly average, 80 is elite and nearly unattainable (think an Aroldis Chapman fastball), and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.
How he got here
Urias, 17, was signed out of Mexico on the same scouting trip in which Logan White and Co., got their first look at Yasiel Puig. Urias signed for about $1 million, but only about 25 percent of that counted toward that year’s international signing pool in 2012.
He, surprisingly, made his professional debut at Great Lakes in the Midwest League last year, and was flat-out dominant at times. He began 2014 with Rancho Cucamonga in the California League. Despite a couple of hiccups (bad outings, minor injury), he’s been pretty good — especially recently.
Urias has a fastball that looks faster than it is at times, but it definitely has the potential to be a plus-offering. He sat at 89-93 MPH and topped out at 95 MPH (on a few occasions). His 4-seamer has a little arm-side run to it, which helps him get grounders when he isn’t using his 2-seamer. The ball explodes out of his hand and gets on hitters faster than it may seem. Astros’ prospect Tony Kemp had no trouble against Urias, as he had a single and a triple against him. As a left-handed hitter, that was a little surprising to see. The triple came on a 3-2 pitch after Urias fell behind 3-0. Kemp fought off a couple good fastballs before finally turning on one and hitting it to right-center field. Rio Ruiz also pulled a fastball down the right-field line for a long single. Urias lost command of the pitch in the fourth inning a bit, giving up loud contact to Kemp and Ruiz, but only gave up one run.
His 2-seamer isn’t thrown nearly as frequently as his 4-seamer, but it’s a nice weapon to use to get grounders. It isn’t a true sinker by any means, but he isn’t afraid to throw it when he’s trying to get a grounder.
It was revealed to many, in spring training, that Urias has a slider, but it’s more slurvy at times because he hasn’t refined the pitch quite yet. He didn’t throw many on this night, the pitch looked really good in his 1-inning spring outing. When he does throw it, it’s a low-80s pitch with sharp, yet inconsistent, break and has some depth.
Urias’ primary off-speed pitch in this outing was his curveball. He threw it in the 75-79 MPH range, and was definitely impressive. He threw it in any count and struck out Astros’ super prospect Carlos Correa on it twice (once swinging, once looking). He threw it to both types of hitters (lefties and righties), but seemed to go to it more against righties. It offers a 2-8 break (catcher’s perspective) and he doesn’t noticeably slow his arm down when he’s throwing it. It flashed plus-potential and could end up being his best breaking ball.
But, Urias’ changeup should be his best off-speed pitch in the future. It’s his most consistent off-speed pitch and the one with the most potential. This is a pitch he will throw at any time, to any hitter. It’s an 80-83 MPH offering that has great fade away from right-handed hitters. He even threw it against lefties (sparingly), which goes against normal convention. But, he has supreme confidence in the pitch and it should only continue to improve going forward.
Against Correa, Urias fared well. In the first at-bat, this was the sequence: 92 MPH fastball (ball), 92 fastball swinging, 93 fastball foul, 75 curveball swinging. The second at-bat: 75 curveball called strike, 92 fastball ball, 93 fastball foul, 79 curveball strike called. Those were definitely Urias’ two most impressive confrontations of the night. Urias got five strikeouts total. Four were swinging (three on fastballs, one on the curveball) and one looking (on the curveball).
Urias’ delivery is smooth and offers just a little funk. He starts with his glove up to his face, ala Andy Pettitte. He starts his wind-up normally and brings his hands up to about neck-level. Before he moves toward home plate, he does the slightest turn of his body, offering more deception than a traditional wind-up. It helps to keep him balanced and is a repeatable part of his delivery. His leg is at a 45-degree angle at the peak of his delivery. He then brings his leg down and instead of going straight toward the plate, he keeps it stiff and swings it forward. It’s noticeable, but doesn’t seem too hamper the delivery. His arm follows in an almost whipping motion. I’d like to see the arm come more quickly, but so far, it hasn’t hurt him (literally or figuratively).
He delivers his pitches from high three-quarters arm slot that allows him to get some natural movement on his pitches. He bends his back really well, allowing him to use his whole body in the delivery. As a shorter pitcher, that helps him get some added velocity, but his delivery isn’t high-effort. It’s easily repeatable.
From the stretch, Urias didn’t employ much of a slide-step. He was 1.5-1.7 seconds to home. Despite that, he was able to keep Kemp close at first base in the first inning. He almost picked him off with a decent move to first. Then, he did pick him off a few pitches later. His pickoff move isn’t great, but it could be improved going forward. He also attempted a few snap throws to first, which is also nice to have.
Here’s how I would grade Urias in the table at right. These are grades I put on him before the season began (present/future): 45/60 fastball, 45/60 curveball, 45/60 changeup, 50/60 command/control, 45/55 delivery.
There’s justifiable hype surrounding Urias. He’s doing all of this as a 17-year-old. He would be draft-eligible this year, and some think he could be a 1-1 candidate. Yet, the Dodgers signed him when he was 16 and he’s now catapulted up prospect rankings. His fastball needs some refinement, but he has at least three potential plus-pitches and an average fourth pitch. His delivery is really good and his control/command could end up being his the best of his tools. But his most impressive trait is his poise. If he were 22 or 23 and had the poise he does, it’d be amazing. But at 17 and to be as mature as he is on the mound is almost unheard of. He never frets and seems to be out of control, even when he struggles. That is something that cannot be taught.
If Urias remains relatively healthy, he has a No. 1 starter ceiling. But I’d be surprised if he were anything less than a No. 2 starter with strikeout-per-innings stuff. This kid has a bright future and is pitching well beyond his years. He’ll be that way until he’s in the bigs for a few years. I’m not sure he’ll get a promotion to Chattanooga this year, but he’ll definitely begin the 2015 season there (if he isn’t traded, of course).