Julio Urias Game Report – 6/28/2013 at Lake County Captains
I want to thank Craig Deas and the Lake County Captains for granting me access.
Julio Urias has been one of the major talking points of the 2013 minor league season. I missed my first chance to see him in Lake County, but I made sure not to miss him the second time ’round.
Listed at 5′-11″ 160 pounds, Julio Urias is not a physically imposing presence on the mound. Nor does he look projectable with his thick lower half and moderately filled out upper half, but we’re discussing someone who is just sixteen years old. I have seen a couple of high profile, teenage, international free agents over the last year (Roberto Osuna & Luis Heredia) where forecasting how they would look in the future was a much easier task; in those cases, they had already reached what I would think to be their physical maturity (or close to it). Predicting how or whether Urias will grow from this point is akin to soothsaying.
Urias begins his delivery with a step backwards with his plant foot before starting his momentum forwards towards the plate. His tempo would ideally be a bit quicker, but he does a good job of maintaining his momentum as he reaches the apex of his high leg kick. His legs do the heavy lifting, while his upper half stays in sync. He will occasionally land on a stiff leg which causes some issues finishing his delivery. The ball is released from a 3/4 arm slot that he maintains well from pitch to pitch and type to type. The arm action itself is fairly clean without any ominous warning signs. At times there’s some moderate effort involved and some very slight cross fire as he tends to plant his foot just outside of the (arm-side) edge of the plate, but the delivery looks sound overall.
Unsurprisingly, Urias’s fastball is his most usable pitch. As a sixteen year old left-handed pitcher, the raw velocity itself was impressive — sitting 89-92 with little degradation through his five innings of work — but what made the pitch particularly effective was the excellent sink and tailing action that was consistently produced. He lived towards the outer regions of the plate (relative to the hitter), only a handful of times venturing to challenge inside. The sink and velocity produced a handful of swings and misses — sometimes up out of the zone as an inadvertent chase pitch, other times down at the bottom of the zone. Contact was mostly of the ground ball variety as you would expect from the movement on the pitch.
Velocity High: 93 MPH
Velocity Low: 88 MPH
Velocity Avg: 90.4 MPH
Strike Pct.: 68.6%
Whiff Pct.: 11.7%
When venturing away from the fastball, we first run into Urias’s unique breaking ball. His glove designation leads me to believe it’s a slider, but the properties alone would make classification more difficult. Predominantly 76-78 MPH, the 2-8 breaker features significant horizontal and vertical depth, giving it an almost wiffleball-esque shape. The pitch has heavy spin but a tendency to break early. It showed better mid to late break when thrown in the 79-80 range with hard diving action; maintaining his arm speed a bit better should give the pitch more consistent power and turn it into a true swing and miss offering. Currently, for all of its movement, the slider is not a major factor. Urias struggled to throw the pitch for a strike, and hitters too often took the pitch out of the zone with facility.
Velocity High: 80 MPH
Velocity Low: 71 MPH
Velocity Avg: 77.1 MPH
Strike Pct.: 25.0%
Whiff Pct.: 12.5%
The circle change-up that Urias throws has significant movement: it darts to his arm side with hard fading action. The velocity separation is good, but to produce it Urias does decelerate his arm slightly as he’s nearing his release point. More problematic is that — like with the slider — he could not establish the strike zone with the pitch. It consistently faded from the edge of the plate (his arm’s side) to the left-handed batters’ box. The change has the movement to be a quality third offering for Urias — it could realistically turn into his best offspeed — but it was even less of a factor than the slider in my look.
Velocity High: 83 MPH
Velocity Low: 81 MPH
Velocity Avg: 82.0 MPH
Strike Pct.: 0.0%
Whiff Pct.: 0.0%
As noted above, Urias failed to locate his offspeed pitches. The slider would often break from outside of the zone to below the zone, while the change-up faded from the edge of the plate to well off of it. Even the two strikes listed for the slider came via the batter swinging at them as they were breaking below the zone (one fouled back and the other swung at and missed). As he gains repetitions, control of both of these pitches should improve dramatically — even in their current state, it’s not as if they are being thrown erratically. With the fastball it is a different story: Urias can throw strikes consistently.
Fastball command is a much more refined trait than simply controlling the fastball. Urias shows some aptitude at hitting his intended spot within the zone, but he does not do it regularly. His miss will typically be to pull the fastball a bit to his glove side; the less frequent miss will be to have the pitch sail up in (or out of) the zone. However, there is no denying that Urias can hit the glove — to both sides of the plate — when he throws the pitch well. The repeatability of his delivery and the lack of significant effort should allow the fastball command to become more and more consistent as he matures.
The hype surrounding Julio Urias has grown deafening since he made his debut in late May. It’s unsurprising; sixteen year old kids are not supposed to be pitching this effectively in the Midwest League. For the most part, the hype seems warranted. Urias throws a quality fastball and shows the makings of a pair of good off speed pitches. Also as a quick aside, he has an impressively deceptive pick off move. There are areas where he needs to improve on his craft, and there is ample time for him to make those adjustments. Projecting him into the future is where things are obscured. I usually include grades in these game reports, but I found the uncertainty with how Urias will grow (will he stay 5′-11″ 160 or will there be a significant growth spurt in his near future?) to be too daunting of an obstacle to surmount. Let’s let the maturation process unfold a bit more before we slap a designation on what Julio Urias can become. I know that I came away impressed.
*Note that this does not constitute every pitch that Urias threw during the evening. I spent the third inning on the first base side filming (all of these pitches were excluded) and missed one or two pitches from the remaining innings.