It’s the middle of August, which means that the Dodgers season is winding down. The Dodgers and Giants are neck and neck for first place in the NL West, and there are no indications of that changing anytime soon. It is time for the Dodgers to arm up with their best players and get ready for the home stretch. But the Dodgers can’t arm up, because they don’t have enough good arms (pun intended).
At the back end of the rotation there is a big sign, and it says: HELP WANTED. Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, the two guys who are supposed to fill this role, are not performing, and the result is complete chaos. McCarthy simply had trouble throwing strikes in his last two starts, and couldn’t even get past the fourth inning in either start. Now he is back on the DL. Anderson came off the DL on Sunday and couldn’t last past one inning, and gave up 5 runs. The Dodgers pitching problem is in such a state of disarray that they only have three pitchers on their “probable” list for this week, and one guy on that list is Bud Norris.
Before Anderson gets out there again to cause one of those days where the Dodgers use seven relievers in a game and lose by five runs, I have another solution. I say it’s time to give Julio Urias the ball, and have him go. He doesn’t need any more time in the minors, and doesn’t need the training wheels on anymore.
Right now he is considered the “long man” out of the rotation, but I don’t see any reason why he can’t start. If you think about it, he doesn’t have high expectations at all. If he gets through a start without getting blown up, that’s a win. And he can do that.
Urias’ time as the “long man” has been defined by his pitch count, which is closely watched (and rightfully so because of his age). Urias hasn’t been able to eat innings because it takes him about 70 pitches to get through roughly four innings. But when he is out there, he can hold his own, which I can say is more than what McCarthy or Anderson can do.
In five innings against Philadelphia last week, he allowed five hits and one earned run, and in a game earlier this week, he gave up three runs on six hits in a game where starter Brock Stewart gave up nine (yes nine!) runs.
Urias is having more success after his second call up from the minors because he has lowered his speed on his fastball and has relied more on other pitches. Looking at this chart from Brooks Baseball, Urias in July averaged a 95 mph fastball but now averages the pitch in the low nineties. This formula (less heat on the fastball and more off-speed pitches) has caused him to become the consistent “long relief” guy we know of right now.
Urias, now 20, is still developing and is still a question mark. Will he become the ace we expect him to be in the future? We’ll see. But right now I’d rather roll the dice on him than see a pitcher like McCarthy, Anderson, or Stewart come in just to be relieved by Urias anyways in the second or third inning.
Urias is too good to stay in the minors. He has a 1.40 ERA in AAA and tabbing him as a consistent starter may increase his confidence as well. I would even say that he should be right there if the inconsistent Scott Kazmir can’t locate his pitches like he did against the Red Sox. Julio Urias has what it takes (and maybe more) to jump above these low-bar expectations left by his struggling teammates.