Fantasy Baseball: Julio Urias Is the Game's Next Great Pitcher
At the time of his birth, Rachel and Ross had already gotten together. "Braveheart" was released in theaters. The OJ Simpson trial had come and gone, and Pearl Jam had already released four albums.
So yeah, Julio Urias is young. But that isn't stopping him from dominating Major League hitters, which is exactly what he did on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates as he threw six hitless innings before departing with one out in the 7th of the Dodgers' 4-3 win over the Bucs.
.@theteenager7 making it look easy. ðŸ‘Œ pic.twitter.com/QbKs4IK4i0
â€” Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 10, 2017
Nicknamed "The Teenager," (even though he is now no longer one), Urias is baseball's next big thing on the mound. He's been Los Angeles' top pitching prospect for a couple years now, and in three starts this season, the 20-year-old has an ERA of 1.06 in 17 innings.
His fastball averages 93.2 miles per hour (MPH), and he couples it with a devastating changeup, which sits at around 81.5 MPH. That roughly 12-MPH difference between his fastball and changeup is devastatingly good. He mixes in a slider and a wipeout curveball, as well.
Last year, as a 19-year-old, Urias appeared in 18 games (15 starts) and put up a 3.39 ERA, striking out 25.0% of batters while walking 9.2% -- staggeringly good numbers for a kid his age.
Julio Urias had a 3.39 ERA as a 19-year-old. The last person to do that over 75+ IP was Felix Hernandez. Before that, it was Dwight Gooden. https://t.co/Qb3cG67E2N
â€” Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 10, 2017
This year, his strikeout and walk numbers are a little off. He has struck out 15.2% of batters faced and also walked 15.2%, which is why his fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 3.60 is so much higher than his ERA, but everyone expects those numbers to correct themselves based on his minor league stats over the last couple years.
In his first two starts this year, Urias had given up only one earned run, but he had walked eight batters and struck out just five in 10 2/3 innings. Tuesday night, he walked only two and struck out five, a much better ratio and one more in line with his previous MLB experience and minor league totals.
The start of Urias' MLB career has understandably been compared to that of the team's ace and the acknowledged best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. In Kershaw's first season (2008), he was also just 20 years old, and he wasn't yet the dominant force we've all come to know. He made 21 starts that year and put up an ERA of 4.26.
It was the last time in his career Kershaw has finished a season with an ERA greater than 2.91.
Urias has the same kind of ceiling, although the Dodgers will understandably be careful not to push him too hard this season. That makes him a nice upside fantasy play now, but perhaps not so much in September. His 6 1/3 innings pitched last night was the deepest he had pitched in any Major League start in his young career, and it's likely the team will watch his innings closely this season.
There's no doubt Urias will help teams in season-long fantasy this season, but he's even more valuable in dynasty leagues where owners can afford to be patient with their eye on 2018 and beyond.
Regardless of the format, Urias should be owned in every league. He is a potential ace, and if everything goes right, could be the best young pitcher the league has seen since the guy who leads his own rotation.