During last week’s annual Blogger’s Night at Dodger Stadium, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti fielded a variety of questions from the group regarding the state of the Dodgers organization, particularly the Dodgers farm system and several of their top prospects.
Urias, who hails from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, was signed by the Dodgers on August 23, 2012 shortly after his 16th birthday. He made his pro debut on May 25, 2013 with the Dodgers Low Single-A affiliate Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League and was the youngest player in the league.
The initial plan for the youngster was for him to start his pro career with the short season Rookie League Ogden Raptors but Dodger management didn’t want him to wait around until after the MLB Amateur Draft in June to begin play, so they assigned him to the Loons with every intention of reassigning him to the Raptors once their season began; however, in his debut with the Loons, the 16-year-old struck out six batters over three shutout innings.
Because of his remarkable success against players two and three years older than himself, the Dodgers decided to keep Urias with the Loons where he made a total of 18 starts and finished the season with a 2-0 record and a 2.48 ERA. His record would have been considerably better than 2-0 but the Dodgers had Urias on a very strict innings limit and he rarely went the required five innings to qualify for the wins.
“For his age he’s got tremendous poise and confidence,” said Colletti of Urias. “He’s got the God-given talents to be pretty good. Quite a surprise to pitch in that league and do as well as he did. We shut him down at one point because he started to get tired, mentally tired and physically tired, because you get prone to injury at that time. He’s coming along pretty quick and we’ll see how it goes. He’s certainly been the most surprising player at that age anyplace.”
When it was mentioned to Colletti that legendary baseball scout Mike Brito (among others) believe that Urias may be pitching in the majors as an 18-year-old, Colletti wasn’t quite as sure about that.
“We’ll have to wait and see. Right now he’s pitching in Midland, Michigan and Lansing, Michigan. The hitters there are a little different.”
Colletti added that Urias will again be on an innings limit next season.
“We usually do with most guys (in their second season). We increase them a little here and there, probably 30 or 40 innings more,” said Colletti. “It’s not necessarily the number, it’s what they go through. You can have a pitcher tonight throw a hundred pitches at six or seven times 15 or 105 pitches… throw 15 an inning, that’s pretty easy. You can have somebody else throw 105 pitches in seven innings and the last inning is 40 pitches and that’s where a lot of the wear and tear and the potential where something that gets banged up. In general we’ll move it up 35 or 40 innings providing that we don’t see a lot of stress and strain.”
As for Corey Seager, Colletti sees a lot of promise in his 2012 first round draft pick but is cautious about putting him on the fast track to the major leagues.
“If it was today he’d probably start out at High-A and move to Double-A at some time during the season,” said Colletti about the 19-year-old shortstop. “I’m just speaking in general not just about Corey Seager. This (Dodger Stadium) is a tough place to field for the first time and some of the kids we brought up here in ’06 and ’07 when I first got here, their first failure was at Dodger Stadium, that’s tough to do. For somebody that’s a good prospect, to have them struggle at a level for a while I see as a positive, and if it gets too easy, to put a struggle in there for them I think is healthy.
“Corey’s got a chance to be a great player,” Colletti added. “He went to (Advance Single-A) Rancho (Cucamonga) and he struggled for a while, which everybody said ‘Oh jeez he wasn’t ready’ and I said I’m not sure he’s ready or not, I’m not judging that, but I wasn’t put off that he struggled because up here (in the major leagues) there’s going to be those days, and if you’ve never done it before, if you’ve never had to figure your way out of a slump or you’ve never had to try to figure out what you need to get better at because the game has come easy to you, this is the wrong place to be trying to be figure it out for the first time.”
This past Monday (September 30) BaseballAmerica.com released their 2013 League Top 20 Prospects Index. In the Midwest League (in which the Dodgers Low Single-A affiliate Great Lakes Loons play), both Corey Seager and Julio Urias were in the league’s Top-20 prospects, with Seager ranked fourth and Urias ranked seventh.