Yesterday it was revealed that much-lauded, much-hyped prospect Julio Urias is being considered for a promotion to the majors. Fans have been clamoring to see this for a while now, but now it’s the team that’s considering bringing him into the fold in order help the Dodgers, as Dave Roberts revealed.
“Internally, there’s talk,” Roberts said. “He just came off another great outing. I think that we’re thinking through a lot of options and Urias is definitely at the top of the list.”
“Julio can do a lot of different things, whether it be out of the pen or as a starter,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of a necessity-based thing as far as when he’s ready which — things are showing that he’s getting to that point.”
Urias getting promoted to the majors appears to be a logical move, at least in the sense that he would likely make the Dodgers a better team. Aside from being the team’s top prospect and one of the best prospects in the majors, Urias has a 1.88 ERA at AAA in 24 innings this year (29/3 K/BB), including six no-hit innings in his latest start. There’s little doubt that Urias could step right in to help the bullpen, and there’s a good chance he would be an upgrade in the rotation as well if the team choose to go that route.
So what, then, is my problem with this possibility?
The issue is exactly the fact that he already is quality enough to impact the Dodgers in the rotation or pen at the age of 19, so arguably the worst thing the Dodgers could do is sidetrack Urias from his ceiling as a top of the rotation arm.
In order for Urias to eventually meet the lofty expectations as a starter, he will actually have to become a starter at some point. As Dustin pointed out last year, the timing of Urias undergoing elective eye surgery caused him to regress in terms of building up his innings and arm strength. Urias still hasn’t thrown more than 87.2 innings in a year, has yet to throw more than six innings, and hasn’t topped 90 pitches, so inserting him into the rotation seems almost dangerous (if not unfair to an already shaky pen), while putting him in the bullpen certainly won’t help him develop stamina or further prepare him for the role the team has planned for his future.
Of course, some future aces do indeed start off in relief, but I can’t recall a situation like the one Urias is in with regards to being called up for a probable relief role with his current level of inexperience as a starter in the minors. I’m just unsure how the Dodgers plan to help Urias reach his ceiling as a starter if he’s called up in May and used as a reliever.
It’s definitely not hard to understand why it’s tempting to just give Urias the call, but after thinking through the potential ramifications of the move, it certainly seems like something that exposes the prized prospect to a bunch of risk (injury or developmental). That’s something the Dodgers have desperately tried to avoid over the years with regards to Urias, so throwing caution into the wind now would be an odd decision.
Video credit goes to Minor League Dodgers.