In the months (perhaps years) leading up to his major league debut, 19-year-old pitching phenom Julio Urias has been compared to many pitchers alike. With both players coming to the MLB from Mexico, Fernando Valenzuela’s name has been almost synonymous with Urias as of late. Both left-handers made their debut at the age of 19. However, I prefer comparing Urias to a more recent pitching phenom in regards to his rookie year: Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw was only 20-years-old when he made his debut in 2008 against the Cardinals. He was one of baseball’s highly touted pitching prospects as well. However, Kershaw found a much easier time navigating the Cards lineup than Urias in tonight’s start vs the Mets.
In Friday’s 6-5 walk-off loss vs the Mets, Urias started out well enough, striking out two of the first three batters. The wheels fell off rather quickly after that. The Mets’ bats ignited, putting Urias in the stretch. Completing his first inning in the big leagues, Urias had surrendered three runs. He retired the side in the second inning, gaining some confidence. Urias had reached his tentative 80-90 pitch limit two thirds of the way through the third inning.. He exited the game having given up four walks and three runs.
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While his command was the most apparent issue in his performance, Urias showed some impressive finesse in his pitch selection. His hard biting slider and even more effective curveball compliment his already superior fastball and changeup (it is also noteworthy that Kershaw only had a fastball and curveball when he made his major league debut). As a 19-year-old lefty with such a dynamic arsenal at his disposal, it’s only natural to guess he will be quite the strikeout artist once he settles in.
In order to settle in, however, he needs to settle down. Of his 81 pitches, almost half of them missed the mark. One pitch even sailed to the backstop with two strikes to David Wright.
His lack of command could be attributed to a pretty common mechanics flaw found in a lot of young pitchers. On his follow through, he will sometimes snap his throwing arm back up from his right hip. This flaw in his motion leaves pitches high, resulting in some costly round-trippers or at least some harder line-drives. Even worse, this creates a lot more tension on the throwing arm and, if it continues to be an issue, can result in injury.
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Luckily, this and a few other things in his mechanics are very mendable at his age. It will take some more time for Urias to feel comfortable out there and the Dodgers have since optioned him back to Oklahoma City for a little more grooming.
When Urias learns to relax a bit more and throw with command, it won’t be long before we see him striking out opponents with thrilling regularity.
In the end, Urias used far too many pitches in order to get outs on Saturday instead of generating softer contact. Dodger fans can find solace in knowing that Urias will find his composure out there and when he does, “Juliomania” could sweep across Southern California as “Fernandomania” has before.
Here’s a recap of Urias’ debut against the Mets: