After weeks of speculation as to when they would promote baseball's top left-handed pitching prospect, the Dodgers are expected to add Julio Urias to their roster Friday. He'll start against the Mets in place of Alex Wood, who has triceps tendinitis.
The youngest player in the big leagues once he arrives, Urias will become the first 19-year-old to pitch for the Dodgers since fellow Mexican Fernando Valenzuela in 1980. He'll be the first teenager to start for Los Angeles since Dick Calmus in 1963.
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Friday's Dodgers-Mets matchup, an MLB Network Showcase game, can be seen free on MLB.TV and will feature MLB Plus -- MLB.com's data-driven online broadcast that uses Statcast™ and other analytical and broadcast elements to deliver an in-depth discussion about both the action on the field and the big picture.
Despite his youth, Urias has nothing left to prove in the Minor Leagues. Acquired as part of a $1.8 million package from the Mexico City Red Devils in 2012, he entered pro ball by dominating low Class A hitters at age 16 the following season. Urias leads the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in ERA (1.10), WHIP (0.78) and opponent average (.176), and he has a 44/8 K/BB ratio in 41 innings. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 27 innings.
MILB Video - Title: Urias notches the strikeout - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=718833783
Urias has the stuff to match his gaudy numbers. He can spot his lively fastball, which sits in the low 90s and tops out at 97 mph, to either side of the plate. Urias' deceptive, fading changeup ranks as one of the best in the Minors, and his curveball has good depth and gives him a third plus pitch.
Urias' control and command continue to get better and he's averaging a career-best 1.8 walks per nine innings this year. The only thing he hasn't proven yet is durability, and that's because the Dodgers have handled him with great care because he's so young and so talented. Urias never has pitched more than 87 2/3 innings in a pro season, though the only time he has missed came last year when he had in-season surgery to remove a benign mass from his left eye.
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Though injuries have ravaged Los Angeles' rotation, it's unlikely that Urias will claim a permanent spot in 2016, no matter how well he pitches. The Dodgers likely will cap his innings at 100-120 this year, which would mean he'd run out of starts in August.
MILB Video - Title: Urias wraps up six hitless innings - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=657718883
However, manager Dave Roberts has mentioned Urias as a possible bullpen addition. Los Angeles currently has three lefty relievers on its roster, but only Adam Liberatore is pitching effectively. Urias could fill an immediate need as a starter until Wood can return, then become a reliever as a way of keeping his innings in check.
Regardless of how the Dodgers deploy Urias this season, he has the tools to thrive as a teenaged rookie and to become a star in the future. The last lefty prospect to be held in such high esteem was the Rays' Matt Moore -- who was pitching in Rookie ball at age 19.