The Los Angeles Dodgers have had the most consistent starting rotation this decade and will experience yet another breakout in Julio Urias in 2020.
Many different faces have passed through the Los Angeles Dodgers in the team’s seven-year NL West-winning run but there has always been one constant: the starting rotation. With Clayton Kershaw as the one constant of the starting rotation, the Dodgers have been great in that aspect in all seven seasons.
The same could be said for 2020, even if the Dodgers lost a Cy Young runner-up in Hyun-Jin Ryu. While it hurts to lose Ryu, he likely would have regressed some from 2019 and the team added multiple pitchers to add depth and make up for the loss.
The addition of David Price gives the team an innings eater who may not be as productive as Hyun-Jin Ryu, but should be better in the National League and should be a solid third pitcher. Alex Wood is back and we have seen first-hand that he has all-star potential and Jimmy Nelson is a really exciting potential breakout pitcher.
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The Los Angeles Dodgers have another exciting breakout option, more so than Nelson, in the likes of Julio Urias. After going through anterior capsule surgery and being on an innings limit last year, Urias is ready for an extended chance at the starting rotation, and if given one, he will not just be the best breakout pitcher on the Dodgers, but in the entire league.
This is not coming out of thin air. Urias was once the highest-touted left-handed pitching prospect in baseball and ranked fourth on MLB Pipeline’s prospect rankings prior to his MLB debut, which was when Urias was 19.
Urias has been part of the team in some form or another for four seasons, leading fans to forget how young he really is. Urias is still only 23 years old and is nearly two years younger than Walker Buehler.
Urias has shown flashes of his potential but never really got an extended chance of showing what he is capable of because of the Dodgers’ rightful wariness earlier in this career as well as the shoulder surgery that put him out for over a year.
Last season that changed. While he did not have an extended stint in the starting rotation, he was given the biggest workload of his career, appearing in 37 games out of the bullpen and throwing 79 and two-thirds innings, a career-high.
Urias thrived in the chances he was given in 2019 and was much better than anyone gave him credit for. Urias ranked ninth among pitchers with at least 70 innings in ERA in 2019 and 26th in WHIP, which was no accident. Urias not only thrived numbers-wise but showcased an elite repertoire in the process.
The star cast metrics are where it gets really exciting for Urias, as he was elite in pretty much any category there is to offer.
Urias ranked in the 79th percentile in fastball velocity and the 94th percentile in fastball spin. Not only does Urias throw harder than the average MLB pitcher, but his elite spin gives the ball a rising motion, making it play 2-3 MPH faster than it really is.
Urias ranked in the 82nd percentile in curveball spin, which explains his nasty curve and in the 69th percentile in K%, which is the lowest of his stat cast percentiles. The rest is where it gets really eye-opening.
Urias ranked in the 100th percentile in both average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage in 2019. The average exit velocity off of Urias was 83.2 MPH, his career average is an elite 84.3.
He ranked in the 90th percentile in expected weighted on-base average, which essentially takes into account things such as exit velocity and the batters sprint speed to calculate how frequently a pitcher allows people on base. Urias was in the top-10 percent.
He also finished in the 87th percentile in expected batting average and the 94th percentile in expected slugging percentage.
Julio Urias has elite stuff and that was showcased in 2019, where batters simply could not consistently hit the young southpaw hard. With that in mind, while also factoring in the natural improvement of a young pitcher, I think we know who the Los Angeles Dodgers’ breakout star is going to be.