Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections came out for the Dodgers this week, and as always, they’re worth looking at. For my money, ZiPS and Steamer are the two best projection systems out there, and I’m only partially saying that because I work for FanGraphs and those are the two systems FG uses.
It’s worth your time to check through all of the projections — ZiPS loves the Dodgers this year, but I want to focus on one, specifically. That’s Julio Urias, who drew a No. 1 comp of… Randy Johnson. That’s the same Randy Johnson who just breezed his way into the Hall of Fame with one of the highest vote totals ever.
ZiPS had an impossible time finding exact-age comps for Urias – a 17-year-old *crushing* the California League is ridonkulous.
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 7, 2015
Now, Dan himself will be the first to tell you that this doesn’t mean that mean that Urias is going to be Johnson, and the comp is more for fun than anything — as Dan noted, there aren’t any real comparables. At 17, Johnson hadn’t yet taken the mound for USC and was four years away from making his pro debut for the 1985 Jamestown team in the New York Penn League.
But what really interested me about that is, if Urias was Johnson… you’d all hate it. Seriously. Johnson’s age-24 season was spent walking 5.7/9 in Triple-A. His age-25 season had a 4.82 ERA and a 5.7 BB/9 in the big leagues. He didn’t start being productive until 26; he didn’t start being dominant until 29, years after he’d left the Expos. Imagine that. Imagine Urias not being productive for eight more years? He’d almost certainly not be with the Dodgers.
This is all just spitting into the wind, because obviously it’s just a comp spit out by a projection system. Which is to say: I don’t know what Urias is going to become, because there’s rarely if ever been anyone like him. I do know that I don’t mind waiting for him. As we saw with Adrian Beltre, pushing a player to the big leagues before his 20th birthday means that you trade a year of prime (age-25 or so) performance for a year of uncertain and perhaps premature teenage performance. I’m excited for Urias, as you all are. I also hope we don’t see him in the big leagues in 2015.