At just 19 years old, the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game, Julio Urias, has the entire pride and passion of his home country on his side. The native of Culiacan, Mexico is confident that he’s ready for big moments, and the Los Angeles Dodgers hope he is.
Last season, the 6-foot-2 stud threw 68.1 innings at Double-A. He finished with a 2.77 ERA and struck out 74 batters while walking just 15. His poise was evident even then. And it was evident as he struggled for two starts in Triple-A, giving up 9 earned runs in 4.1 innings.
“He’s a down-to-earth, humble kid,” said Matt Herges, Urias’ pitching coach in Double-A Tulsa. “It’s so rare for a kid of his stature, too. I mean, the weight of the world is on him. At least the weight of his country. Really, it’s inspiring to me. He’s confident, but he’s not too confident. He knows he hasn’t earned this yet.”
That’s the most incredible thing. A 19-year old has mastered the art of being confident but not too confident all while the “weight of his country” is on his shoulders. It makes you understand just a little more exactly what motivates and drives the young lefty.
The Dodgers certainly believe they’ve struck gold in Urias, and he seems poised enough to deliver on that belief. His dominance in the minors at such a young age is one of the best stories in recent memory.
Urias made his debut for the Dodgers at the ripe age of 16 years old. He debuted directly in Single-A, and pitched 54.1 innings, finished with a 2.48 ERA, and struck out 67 batters. Even from the start he was damn good.
When he was 17 years old, Urias pitched at Rancho Cucamonga in Single-A-Advanced, and struck out 109 batters in 87.2 innings while finishing with a 2.36 ERA. He just kept dominating.
And then, last year, at just 18 years old, Urias pitched 80.1 innings and finished with a combined 4.15 ERA. But he fanned 88 batters. In total in his minor league career, he has a 2.91 ERA and 264 strikeouts in 222.1 innings. The hype is justified.
But, if you ask Urias, he doesn’t want to be just hype:
“I have to say,” he said Saturday morning through translator and fellow prospect Jose De Leon, “my goal is to play in the big leagues this year.”
If Urias truly makes the big leagues this season, then that’d be a special story. Still, the team has him on a timetable and 2017 seems more likely. Either way, the lefty makes us harken back to thoughts of Fernando Valenzuela, a fellow Mexican youngster who captivated Hollywood.
As Urias follows in Valenzuela’s footsteps, the 19-year old looks to etch out his own place in Dodgers history. With his attitude, polish, and talent, he seems like a lock to do so.