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Julio Urias could be most valuable arm in bullpen

He’s quietly been a top reliever in the NL

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline quickly approaching, it’s looking more likely that the Dodgers will be one of the more active teams across the league. With an obvious need for a bullpen upgrade, there should be no shortage on teams looking to stock up on some of LA’s most promising draft prospects.

As the Dodgers will be looking to avoid a third-straight World Series loss, it’s expected the team will go all-out this time around, with the hopes of delivering the first championship to the city of Los Angeles in over 30 years. There’s no question that the Dodgers have the prospects to acquire essentially any piece they so wish.

Now before we get started, let me be the first to say, I absolutely think that the Dodgers need to acquire at least one bullpen arm. In a perfect world, I would hope they get two, but we’ll stick to one for now. As I mentioned, they have the prospects to acquire whoever they want. The only problem, though, is the price they’ll likely have to pay. It’s safe to say a trade for an elite reliever will cost not only one top five prospect, but likely two. I don’t know what the front office is currently thinking, so I’m not entirely sure how “all-out” they’re willing to go.

Let’s say for the sake of this article, they stand pat, and don’t make a move for a reliever. That actually might not be a bad thing. Quietly, the Dodgers have had one of the better relief pitchers in baseball over the last month-and-a-half with Julio Urias.

Over his last 11 games, Urias has posted an ERA of 0.37, while holding opponents to an average of only .110, both the lowest in the majors during that stretch. Of the qualified pitchers who have thrown at least 23 innings since June 5, Urias also has a wOBA of .162, the lowest across the board as well.

Not only have his numbers been among the best in baseball, he’s also been able to perform in high-leverage situations. With runners in scoring position, opponents are 2-for-20 against Urias. With runners on base, opponents have gone 4-for-33 while striking out seven times. Not only has he been getting the job done, but he’s been doing it during crucial parts of the game.

Urias has been one of the more perplexing players in baseball over the last few seasons. He came up at such a young age, had to miss over a year recovering from an injury, and now is balancing being either a starting pitcher or a reliever. There’s no question that he has the talent to be in the Dodgers’ starting rotation, but as he slowly works his way back from that huge injury, LA is being very conservative with his innings.

Manager Dave Roberts has talked about Urias potentially being added to the rotation near the end of the season in preparation for October. As it currently looks, maybe the best move for Roberts and the Dodgers isn’t adding Urias to the rotation, but it’s keeping him in the bullpen, and officially making him the set-up guy.

In 23 total appearances this season, both as a reliever and a starter, Urias has thrown multiple innings in 17 of them. During this recent stretch over the last seven weeks, he’s only pitched a single inning twice. His primary role is used as a long-reliever, with the hopes he’ll eat innings and preserve arms in the bullpen. Though he excels at this, I believe it’s time to transition him into a full-time set-up man to throw before Kenley Jansen in the ninth.

Regardless of how shaky he’s been, Jansen isn’t losing his spot in the ninth inning. As it stands, the Dodgers have yet to decide who will be the bridge to him in the eighth. They’ve tried out Pedro Baez and Joe Kelly, both have had their ups-and-downs this season. There’s still plenty of time, and one of those guys could earn the spot before October. Heck, we still have over two months to decide that.

Something else that makes Urias extremely valuable is his ability to face both sides of the plate. He’s faced 57 righties, and 35 lefties. To no surprise, he’s been able to dominate both sides. Lefites are hitting .097 against him, while righties are batting .118.

There are a number of bullpen arms the Dodgers can acquire that will immediately upgrade their team, and as mentioned early on, I fully expect them to add at least one arm. However, Urias looks to be a very serviceable option, especially in late-inning and high-leverage situations. It’s unclear what the front office and Dave Roberts are expecting out of him moving forward for the rest of the season, so we’ll have to sit back and see what they do.


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