Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias has spent the majority of the season working out of their bullpen, but the club expects to change his role in 2020, manager Dave Roberts told Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com and other reporters Monday.
“We project him to be a starter for us next year,” Roberts said, “and many years to come.”
Urias entered the majors as a hyped 19-year-old prospect in 2016. He started in 15 of 18 appearances that season, but because the Dodgers were monitoring his workload as a rookie, he only totaled 77 innings. Urias nonetheless thrived over that span, pitching to a 3.39 ERA/3.17 FIP with 9.82 K/9 against 3.62 BB/9. The hope then was that Urias would offer similar or better production over a larger number of innings going forward, but he instead underwent a major procedure – anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder – in June 2017 and combined for just 27 1/3 innings between that year and last season.
Set to turn 23 next week, Urias has returned from his injury (and a May domestic violence arrest, for which charges weren’t filed) to serve as one of the strongest members of a somewhat shaky bullpen. He’s hands down the top lefty option in a relief corps that has dealt with significant injuries to veteran southpaws Scott Alexander (our since June 7 with forearm inflammation) and now-Cardinal Tony Cingrani (out all season because of shoulder issues). Through 37 1/3 innings as a reliever, Urias has notched a 1.93 ERA/3.59 FIP with 8.44 K/9, 3.13 BB/9 and a 44.6 percent groundball rate. Adding to his value, Urias has given the Dodgers more than one inning in most of his appearances.
As the NL-leading Dodgers take another shot at a World Series this year, they’ll consider deploying Urias as one of their main setup men, per Roberts. Beyond that, with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill scheduled to become free agents over the winter, there will be room for Urias in the Dodgers’ rotation.