Dodgers pitching prospects Julio Urias and Jose De Leon were ranked at or near the top prospects at their position throughout baseball this week by MLB Pipeline. Urias was rated as the No. 1 left-handed pitching prospect in the game, while De Leon was tabbed as the No. 5 right-hander on Tuesday.
The rankings, spearheaded by Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com, are being released in position groups starting this week, with the full top prospect list in MLB due out on January 28.
Mayo wrote about Urias:
Urias has an outstanding combination of stuff and pitchability well beyond his years. He has three plus pitches with outstanding command. The only thing he doesn't have is innings.
Urias doesn't even turn 20 until August, and will be featured prominently in the top five or 10 overall prospects in baseball by several this offseason. No matter where Urias ultimately ends up on the lists, given his age, he remains arguably the most intriguing prospect in the game, with a ceiling as high as anybody and the tools at the ready to possibly make a major league impact as early as 2016.
De Leon, 23, had a breakout season in 2015, leading the Dodgers minor league system with 163 strikeouts, striking out 30 percent of his batters faced across multiple levels.
"De Leon's stuff and command have gotten a lot better since he improved his conditioning and mechanics, giving him a riding 92-96 mph fastball, a plus changeup and an effective if inconsistent slider," wrote Callis.
Both Urias and De Leon proved their worth at Double-A Tulsa in 2015, and figure to be slotted in the Triple-A rotation some time very soon, if not to start the 2016 season.
Whether there is room in Oklahoma City remains to be seen. If at the beginning of the season Hyun-jin Ryu is healthy and ready to start, that leaves Alex Wood, Brandon Beachy, Mike Bolsinger and Zach Lee on the outside looking in, all with reasonable claims to a Triple-A rotation spot. And that's before considering Frankie Montas, who the club wants to start rather than relieve, Jharel Cotton and Ross Stripling, all of whom are on the 40-man roster.
But there is plenty of time between now and spring training, and between now and the season starting, for the Dodgers' starting rotations to sort themselves out at multiple levels.
How the duo of Urias and De Leon performs in 2016 will ultimately determine their short-term fate, but the gap between their minor league performance and major league readiness is narrowing, which has to be exciting for the Dodgers in both the long- and short-term.