I took in starts for two prospects that are nearing their peak as minor leaguers and may factor shortly into the Dodgers plans. Both appear to be rounding into mid season form after extended layoffs and could be prime for additional innings in fall league.
This was the strongest I've seen Urias, and though I was already plenty impressed with him, he's looking more and more capable of taking on the next challenge. Whether that be a spot start or two in AAA or perhaps a trip to the Fall League, I still believe a big league cameo is a stretch at this point. Thursday was his longest start since coming off the disabled list, and though he didn't quite hold his stuff through all six innings, he had enough in the tank to get keep getting hitters out had he stayed in.
Urias' fastball was consistently 92-95 mph on the evening, touching 96 mph occasionally but stayed closer to the bottom of the range in his later innings. The fastball had better armside life when thrown at 92-93, and he could generate tremendous sink on the pitch when he placed it on the outer half of the zone against right handers. The harder he tries to throw the more he chances leaving the ball up and losing life, and he was touch on a few of the harder fastballs.
His breaking ball was the best it's been in a start I've seen. Urias had more bite and slider-like movement on the pitch when thrown in the mid 80's, but could take a few ticks off to get a pure curve ball shape as well. The harder version generates more swings and misses, while the softer version should still produce ground balls with where he tends to place the pitch. He throws strikes with the pitch and has excellent feel and command for his age.
Again, the change-up is the star, and is as impressive for the arm speed as it is the fade. What I liked in this outing was that Urias was willing to throw the pitch in any count. In his best display of pitchability, Urias escaped danger with a strikeout set up by two opening change-ups swung through for strikes to set up a fastball high at 92 mph for the final swing and miss of the inning. It showed that Urias doesn't have to have the premium velocity to get hitters out, since he has plenty of speed separation and command with his secondaries.
Urias makes everything look easy on the mound. His mechanics are clean, though his rock-and-fire delivery gives him little deception. I wonder if Urias could eventually play with the timing of his delivery to give him a few looks to throw off hitters, as he demonstrates excellent body control.
Urias' composure was also impressive for his age. He had a few chances to unravel with multiple base-runners, but largely kept his cool. He did commit a balk and has to restrain from speeding up his delivery in high leverage situations, but all the signs are positive development-wise.
Urias' time off did little to slow his climb to the major leagues. His stuff was as good as I've seen it, and he at times doesn't look challenged by AA hitters. I'm not suggesting he gets thrust into the pennant race; he still lacks big league stamina and might still benefit from an extended stay in AAA next season. It would still do him good to face a little bit of adversity, but can the minor leagues even offer him that?
Perhaps closer to the big leagues is Thursday night (8/20) starter Ross Stripling. Ross's early AA results suggested he still had rust to shake off from a long layoff from Tommy John surgery, but he now looks like the finished product he teased prior to injury. Only two home runs blemished his line, and Stripling's stuff looked consistent through his six full innings.
Two things quickly standout about Stripling: his over the top arm action and the consistency in the delivery/arm slot. Stripling is a fine athlete capable of repeating his motion and maintaining his high slot. This is especially key for his breaking pitches, which come out of hand looking like the fastball before breaking hard down, like the curveball, or with 11-5 tilt, like the slider. It's deceptive enough that without the stadium gun working, the radio announcer (you can hear him from behind the plate) frequently misdiagnosed Stripling's off speed pitches.
Stripling's fastball sat 91-92 mph for six innings, and rarely deviated from this range. The pitch is a little true, with occasional cut or run, but he commands it well. Because it lacks life and is thrown from over the top, he can struggle to work it down in the zone, but with both breaking balls attacking the low zone, the fastball gives hitters another look.
You can take your pick as to which Stripling breaking ball you prefer, but both are above average. The curveball is a true 12-6 curve with late break that both freezes hitters and be swung through. On this night, it was Stripling's more effective strikeout pitch. The slider is thrown around 84 mph and has cutter-like action. Hitters pounded the slider into the ground and was an effective pitch for Stripling to escape trouble or throw early in counts to produce quick outs.
The straight change-up was thrown with good arm speed and provides Stripling with a fourth pitch to mix in, though it appeared fringy at times. Like the fastball, it lacks life, but he commands it solidly and can throw it for strikes.
If the Dodgers want, I see no reason why Stripling can't be a Mike Bolsinger-esque swing pitcher, and the two share some similarities. I, however, would much prefer to see the Dodgers try him in relief, where I think the fastball could tick up a grade and his high slot breaking balls would give hitters a different pitch plane out of the pen. I even believe he has a chance to be a Tyler Clippard-type reliever that may not have the traditional fastball of a late reliever, but a real off speed weapon (curve for Stripling, change for Clippard) to produce a high strikeout rate late in games.
Stripling is not yet on the 40 man, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Los Angeles late if the need arises for a spot start or two. His command is looking close to being all the way back from Tommy John, and with that, he's more or less a finished product.