Not since Clayton Kershaw have the Los Angeles Dodgers boasted such a promising pitching prospect. As such, the organization has gone to great lengths to protect Julio Urias while simultaneously developing the young left-hander.
Urias was expected to make his Major League debut last season, but the manner with which that occurred was unconventional. He bounced to and from Triple-A Oklahoma City, and was used in the Dodgers rotation as well as their bullpen.
All the while Urias was working on an inning limit. That remains in place, which is one explanation for the club’s decision to leave the 20-year-old in extended Spring Training at the beginning of the season.
Kershaw, who didn’t share the identical journey to the Majors as Urias, understands the dilemma the Dodgers have faced with their young prodigy, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“To send me down, they didn’t need an excuse, because I was struggling. It was an easy decision for me to go down and work on things. Julio dominates up here, and that’s a tougher conversation, like, ‘Why are you sending me down?’ He’s having more success earlier than I did. That makes it harder to keep him back.”
Urias went 5-2 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 18 games (15 starts) for the Dodgers last season. He threw 77 innings in those outings, and an additional 5.2 innings in two playoff appearances (one start).
With Oklahoma City, Urias tossed 45 innings, bringing his total for the year to a career-high 127.2 innings pitched.
When Kershaw debuted in May of 2008, he was 20 years old, or less than a full calendar year older than Urias when he first joined the Dodgers. Kershaw threw a combined 171 innings with Double-A Jacksonville and Los Angeles during his rookie season.
Urias threw 79 pitches across 3.2 innings in his first for Oklahoma City this season. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts suggested it was plausible the 20-year-old joins the club for good by the end of April.