Down From Big League Camp, Julio Urias Is Still Julio Urias

GLENDALE, Ariz.—Save for a little rustiness with his fastball command, Julio Urias is exactly who we thought he was. Namely, an extremely polished lefthander whose three-pitch mix has vaulted him, at just 19 years old, to the very top of the prospect world.

He ranks No. 4 overall on this year’s Top 100 Prospects, and No. 2 in the Dodgers system behind Corey Seager, the game’s top prospect. Despite all the accolades and the mounting woes with the Dodgers’ rotation, Urias was cut from big league camp this week.

The move was expected. Urias has just 4 1/3 innings above Double-A and just 68 1/3 innings above high Class A. He missed a significant chunk of time last year while recovering from cosmetic facial surgery to remove a benign mass from under his left eye.

In big league camp this year, Urias gave up four earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts and a walk in three innings. Tuesday was his first start in minor league camp, and things went as smoothly as one would expect.

Against Milwaukee’s Triple-A group, which included stud shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia (No. 8 on this year’s Top 100), Urias tossed three shutout innings on just 35 pitches. His fastball sat in the low-90s and touched 95 while showing well above-average cutting life in on righthanders.

He complemented the pitch with a slider and changeup both in the low-80s. He broke Arcia’s bat with the latter pitch, the result of which was a grounder to second base.

Ryan Garko—the former Indians first baseman and Stanford assistant coach imported by farm director Gabe Kapler to be the Dodgers’ new manager at Double-A Tulsa—got his first in-person look at Urias on Tuesday and was impressed.

“He looked good. His fastball command probably wasn’t exactly where he wanted it, but you can that the stuff is so good,” Garko said. “He’s got some late life today and he repeated his delivery really well. He got some really good work in today.

If Urias goes to Triple-A and performs the way he’s capable, fans will soon be clamoring for him to be summoned to Los Angeles. That will be doubly true if the rotation—which is filled with uncertainty behind all-star lefthander Clayton Kershaw and Scott Kazmir—falters early.

The urge to break the seal on Urias and righthander Jose De Leon, another top-tier pitching prospect, will be strong. Especially considering that Urias is beginning to remind the Dodgers of another all-star southpaw.

“I came up against (Francisco) Liriano, and I saw a little bit of that today,” Garko said. “He gets some swings and misses on some of those sliders (like Liriano), but he’s himself. He’s a great kid from the little bit I’ve gotten to talk to him around camp.

“I think that he’s got a great mindset, a great work ethic, the kind of things that as a coach or even as a teammate you would love about the guy. He’s mature well beyond his age with his work ethic and his approach to the game.”

Even with all his success, there’s still a few roadblocks to clear before he’s ready to have Vin Scully call his name at Dodger Stadium. After all, in the little time he did spend at Triple-A, Urias was raked by hitters in the Pacific Coast League.

If Double-A is where most top prospects begin to cement their resumes, Triple-A is where wily veterans wait to expose their deficiencies. Case in point, the cleanup hitter in this game was Andy Wilkins, a 26-year-old with a cup of coffee in the big leagues and 48 homers over his last two seasons in Triple-A.

In his first trip against Urias, Wilkins waited out Urias before drawing a walk. An inning later, against younger competition, Urias mowed through the Brewers on just six pitches.

“There’s still steps to go before he gets to L.A.,” Garko said, “and even once you get to L.A.—we talk to all of our young players about it’s not just getting there, it’s about establishing yourself as an everyday major leaguer when they bear down on you and try to find the holes in your game.”

Triple-A hitters found holes last year, and major league hitters found holes this spring. Now, it’s on Urias to adjust and prove he is who we think he is.


Tuesday was a goldmine as for prospect hounds. Not only was Urias pitching in the Triple-A game, but righthander Grant Holmes was starting in the Double-A game a few steps away.

Holmes, the No. 6 prospect in Los Angeles’ system—the best in the game—sat 92-95 mph with his fastball over his two innings.

Righthander Jacob Rhame, the Dodgers’ No. 20 prospect, relieved Urias in the Triple-A game and showed a quick arm that produced mid-90s fastballs with a peak of 97 mph. He coupled the pitch a fringe-average slider in the mid-80s and a below-average curveball in the mid-70s.

Righthander Chase DeJong also relieved Urias and showed good sink on an 88-92 mph fastball for three innings.

Brewers reliever Damien Magnifico sat between 97-99 mph in his inning out of the Brewers’ bullpen.

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