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History won't be made Friday in Citi Field, but we'll still have a noteworthy event to look forward to when Dodgers stud pitching prospectJulio Urias makes his major-league debut against the Mets. Urias is set to become the first teenager since Felix Hernandez to start a major-league game this Friday, and Fantasy owners should be very excited about this.
Urias isn't the consensus top pitching prospect in the minors, but he might just be the most exciting one on upside alone. Consistently one of, if not the youngest player at every level he has pitched at, Urias doesn't really have much left to prove in the minors. Despite being eight full years younger than the average player in the Pacific Coast League, Urias has absolutely dominated the competition this season, posting a 1.10 ERA with 44 strikeouts and only eight walks in 41 innings of work. In 2015, he faced 330 batters and only two of them were younger than him -- both were at Rookie Ball when he was making rehab appearances.
Urias is, then, the most exciting pitching prospect to make his major-league debut this season, and possibly since Stephen Strasburg. What he has been able to do at his age against fully grown men while still developing means his degree of difficulty has been extremely high, and yet his overall results have been extremely impressive: in 263 1/3 innings in the minors overall, Urias has 10.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9, with a 2.63 ERA overall.
So, the results have been great, and the scouting reports are just as glowing. Urias wasn't considered the Dodgers' consensus top prospect coming into the season, only because that guy Corey Seager -- he of the .775 OPS as a rookie shortstop -- still qualified. In nearly any other system, Urias' combination of production, youth and stuff would have had him at the top of the heap.
His fastball sits 90-94 and he has pushed it up to the high-90's at times, with tremendous movement and command of the pitch. He also has a curveball and changeup, both of which scouts rate as plus pitches at present; the results in the hitter-friendly PCL certainly seem to back that up.
If there is one knock on Urias for Fantasy, it's that he just doesn't have much exposure right now. With 41 innings already recorded on the season, he is nearly halfway to his season-high of 87 2/3, set in 2014. The Dodgers have made a point of limiting his workload given his age, and he underwent surgery on his eye last season, which limited him to 80 1/3 innings a year ago.
Because of that, he probably isn't going to be in the rotation for the rest of the season almost regardless of how well he pitches. The reason he wasn't considered quite as much of a sure thing for Fantasy as other pitchers in the minors like Blake Snell, Lucas Giolito or Tyler Glasnow is because it seemed like he might get called up eventually as a reliever; reports indicated as much earlier this month.
Even with those concerns, Urias is an absolute must-own pitcher now that he is getting the call. Even if he doesn't stick in the rotation moving forward, the fact that the Dodgers have trusted him enough to call him up this early seems to hint at their plans. They have depth in the rotation, especially with Hyun-Jin Ryu working his way back from shoulder woes, but there is only one pitcher in their rotation with more upside than Urias, and he already has three Cy Young awards.
No pitcher is a sure thing, obviously, and that is especially true for a teenager. However, Felix Hernandez dominated the majors in his first stint, posting a 2.67 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings as a 19-year-old. That is not a totally unrealistic or unfair comp for Urias.
With seemingly little left to prove in the minors, Urias faces one of the toughest tests possible in getting the call at such a young age. Though there are obvious questions about how he might fare against major-leaguers, and his role on the Dodgers beyond Friday isn't at all known at this point.
Those are fair questions to bring up.
Ignore them. Add him. Do not bet against a kid with this much talent.