There was a lot of hype surrounding Julio Urias entering Friday night’s game, and it didn’t quite go as planned. Urias was unable to complete the third inning, leaving with three earned runs, four walks, and three strikeouts to his name. Some blamed it on being a 19-year-old making his MLB debut. Some believe that his stuff simply wasn’t as good as the scouting reports dictated. I was excited as anyone to watch the young Mexican’s debut and I sat down to watch all 81 of his pitches. Let’s see what went wrong in this GIF Breakdown of Julio Urias‘ MLB Debut in 14 GIFs.
Let’s start with his strikezone plot to get a feel of the outing:
If you didn’t watch the game, you’ll quickly figure out that Urias was incredibly wild. Fastballs were missing all over the place (notice the one pitch that overlaps with the word “strikezone” at the top) and he never got a consistent feel for his breaking pitches. You will notice, though, that Urias focused on hitting the edges of the plate instead of relying on weak contact in the zone. Few pitches are located at the heart, with plenty found in the corners and along the edges. This approach didn’t work in his favor last night as the desired command wasn’t present (only 4 of 17 first pitch strikes!) and it got out of hand quickly. Nevertheless, there’s more to be encouraged about from this plot given his tenacity and confidence to command away from hitters’ wheelhouses and I expect to see improved precision in his future appearances.
Now let’s take a look at how each of his pitches looked through the evening:
It doesn’t take an expert to tell you that Urias never looked comfortable on the hill. He had moments where he flashed why he was so hyped, but he started his outing with this pitch:
and ended his outing on this pitch:
His Fastball was all over the place as we saw in the strikezone plot, with one pitch even soaring above Grandal’s head to the backstop. But hey, this is a 19-year-old’s MLB debut, there are expected jitters that will be amplified if things aren’t going his way off the bat. Speaking of which, take a look at this Fastball to Asdrubal Cabrera:
Urias is a nibbler by trade. We saw in the plot that he did a good job of avoid the heart of the plate and he’s known to spot his Fastball around the corners to make at-bats difficult. However, he wasn’t getting the calls he wanted and when he did have improved Fastball command, it often turned out like the above pitch, missing just off the plate. Then there were times he did get the call and it was glorious:
Just look at that pitch. Men on 2nd and 3rd with two outs and he spots a 95mph heater on the black at the knees for a first-pitch strike. It sets the tone for the entire at-bat. That’s the Urias we’ve heard about, and I expect to see plenty more pitches like this in future games when he is removed from his overly bright spotlight.
Just to reinforce that Urais has the ability to dominate with his heater, watch him blow this 95mph pitch past David Wright for his second strikeout of the first inning:
Wright couldn’t catch up to it as Urias has a good amount of deception, hiding it for a long time behind his contorted frame. Clearly, there is plenty to be excited about, and on’t be too discouraged by his unharnessed Fastball last night. The command will return with time making Urias a forced to be reckoned with.
There is a very apparent theme from this game that I feel the need to hammer home. Urias’ command was far from great, but he looked excellent when he executed his pitches. Early in the game, his Curveball hinted at being the savior that he could rely on to get through at-bats, as his first one was this excellent 1-1 pitch to David Wright:
How can you need be thrilled after seeing that? The lateral and vertical movement, the 20mph speed difference, the late bite, it’s all there to be a deadly weapon to use at will through lineups. As Dodger fans inched up in their seats expecting his hook to calm him down and invigorate his Fastball command, his next hook looked like this to Yoenis Cespedes:
Maybe it’s just a one time thing?
Damn. That second hook to Walker could have put away the second basemen and gotten Urias out of the first unscathed, but it didn’t have the same bite as the first one and Walker smacked it for a double. Urias simply didn’t have his A-game. However, as we endure his mistakes it’s important not to lose track of the impressive upside his Curveball holds, as he can do crazy good things with the pitch:
That is a perfect 1-0 pitch to a left-hander. It fell away from the bat and barely grazed the outside corner to climb back into the count. Beautiful.
I think we’re going to be talking about Urias’ Curveball for a long time and while it wasn’t as refined and consistent as we expected, you better believe Urias has the ‘stuff’ to dominate in the majors.
Urias’ Slider is the pitch that I imagine most people ignored. He didn’t do anything fancy with it, rarely threw it for a strike, and didn’t get a single whiff. I mean, just look at this pitch:
What a waste. But then he shocked me when he threw this Slider to Walker in an important 1-1 count:
This is a really really good pitch that went by unnoticed. It seemed that Walker during this entire at-bat was sitting off-speed (look at the delay of his landing foot), which made him ready to layoff this Slider, but don’t let that discount the potential of this pitch. It features a good 10mph drop from his Fastball with late bite and a hefty amount of drop. In normal at-bats, batters would see a Fastball headed for the middle of the plate, then wistfully look to the sky wondering how they could be so foolish as the ball falls off the table, missing their bat by a foot. You’re going to see Urias throw this pitch a ton against right-handers and left-handers alike and it’s yet another weapon to get batters out.
But since this was Urias’ debut and not everything was working as it should, Urias’s Slider didn’t always feature the movement as the above pitch to Walker even when he threw it for a strike. Take a look at this one to David Wright:
It’s not a horrible pitch, but the elevated location and lack of depth allowed Wright to get a good swing on it for an 0-2 pitch, which fortunately landed in Joc Pederson’s glove for the out. I have more faith in Urias’ Curveball to become a more consistent weapon, and he’ll need to feature his Slider more like the one to Walker for it to be a powerful tool.
Urias rarely touched his Changeup, throwing only a handful over the course of the night. He threw them exclusively to right-handers, and had a surprising amount of confidence in the pitch. His first one came in a critical situation to Juan Lagares who took the ball up the middle for a two-RBI single:
Some would be quick to write off this pitch, but I love it. This is an excellent 1-1 offering, as Lagares was committed to a Fastball on the outside corner (look at the double tap of his front foot) and had to reach out to poke the ball with the end of the bat. The weakly struck ball happened to find a hole and score two runs, but on a regular day this ends the inning for Urias and everyone is praising his complete repertoire. The other ones featured in his 81 pitches were all well outside of the zone and in the right-handed batter’s box, which simply adds to the consistent question of consistency with his pitches. Regardless, the upside is there and we’ll simply have to wait to see if it pans out in his favor when he returns to the big leagues.
Final Line: 2.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 4 BBs, 3 Ks in 81 Pitches (42 strikes) – 4/17 First Pitch Strikes
Don’t be discouraged. There was a lot to like about Urias in his abbreviated outing despite his wild control and inconsistent execution. Given the circumstances of being a 19-year-old making his first MLB start and not having things go his way, I’m willing to brush aside his command issues in favor of the glimpses of dominance that we’ve heard so much about. His features a deceptive Fastball that can be commanded with 93-95mph to the corners, perfectly setting up his Slider and Changeup. His Curveball is a serious weapon that will find its place in highlight videos. His Slider and Changeup both show immense potential to be the much needed third and fourth pitches to carry him deep into games…when he’s allowed to travel past 80 pitches. We may have to wait until 2017 to see Urias fully unleashed – he was optioned back to the minors early on Saturday – but when that time comes I have little doubt that he won’t live up to the hype. The stuff is there and the command will come.
As always, I’ll leave you with a pitch that encapsulates the pitcher at hand. Here we have Urias’ beautiful Curveball falling in for an early strike against Yoenis Cespedes: