Dodgers fans, THE moment has arrived.
The Dodgers organization has for decades prided itself on cultivating home-grown talent and being a bastion of cultural diversity. The two will intersect Friday, May 27th as we will witness the earnestly awaited arrival of the next great blue hope, Julio Urias.
Urias (let us get it right from the start: “ooh-RHEE-ahhs,” #ponleacento) was first spotted by Dodgers scouts when he was 15 years old in Mexico while on assignment to evaluate Yasiel Puig, whom had just arrived after his notorious, scandal-laced, final successful attempt to flee Cuba. Many other scouts had written off, or failed to give appropriate attention to, the precocious lefty (already throwing fastballs in the low 90s and dominating much older talent) due to a cosmetic flaw in his left eye that caused the upper eyelid to droop and gave him an “unathletic face” if there is such a thing, and falsely raised doubts as to the quality of his vision and even more unfounded rumors that the eye was cancerous. The Dodgers smartly performed some light due diligence, decided he was worth the upside and, hey, they were already there, so why not throw $450k at him and see what he says?
Urias jumped at the opportunity and four years, three eye surgeries, and 4 promotions later, here we are.
The anxious anticipation by fervent fans of a Fernandomania 2.0 may be a lazy comparison and is surely a mountainous expectation, but is not entirely unreasonable or inappropriate. Urias has flourished at each level of minor league play, his only real challenge being quickly overcome early in his 2015 transition to AAA. The kid dominated single-A as a 16-year-old and showed a pride in work ethic and an eagerness to learn as he posted a 2.77 ERA as an 18-year-old in AA. He has consistently been praised by numerous respected players, coaches, and talent evaluators for his maturity and poise. Urias arrives riding a 27-inning scoreless streak and ranked the #2 overall prospect in all of baseball at age 19 — younger even than the legendary Fernando was when he made his illustrious debut in 1981. Urias has struck out 44 batters and walked just 8 thus far in AAA in his 41 innings pitched and has given up all of 5 runs for an ERA of 1.10. The fact that he’s Mexican with a bit of a goofy look is just icing on the El Toro comparison cake.
While it would be magical to take in Urias’ major league debut at beautiful Chavez Ravine, the need for his arm comes just as the Dodgers embark on an east coast road trip. Urias will take Alex Wood’s spot in the rotation as he rests a strained triceps. There had been some speculation that Urias would first be used as a reliever at the major league level since Dodgers’ management has taken care not to overwork his young arm, but it appears they are comfortable giving him a chance to remain a starter (though he has not been asked often to pitch more than five innings). The assignment speaks to the faith the organization has in his ability to handle pressure as they will let him begin his career in the media capital of the world against no less than the defending National League champion New York Mets. If a Los Angeles debut with all its requisite fanfare was not in the cards, a Big Apple debut is surely a palatable consolation prize.
Southern California businesses can expect their Dodger fan employees to be cutting work early as game time is 4:10 PM PT. If all goes well, you can expect Urias jerseys to be a huge seller in Los Angeles, home arguably to the largest and proudest latino fan constituency in all of American sports. “It’s up to you, Julio Urias.”
*As a side note, for some context on the gravity of Dodgers fans finding their first Mexican baseball hero and the glorious absurdity that followed, ESPN’s fantastic 30 for 30 on Fernandomania is highly recommended.
Gerry Schwartzmeyer is a featured author at Around the Horn Talk, an official affiliate of MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @pgeradactyl.