It’s not often that a once-in-a-generation pitching prospect comes around, but how rare would two for one team in a span of eight years be? The Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw come up when he was 20. Now they have Julio Urias who came up at 19 and seems destined for a similar path.
As good as Dodgers’ future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw is, Julio Urias may have an even higher ceiling than Kershaw (if that’s even possible). When Kershaw first arrived in the big leagues, he was primarily a two-pitch pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and his knee-buckling curveball.
Urias already has four pitches he uses. They are a mid-90s fastball, a slider, a tilting curveball, and a changeup that is already developed enough that it can keep major league hitters honest. Just ask Hunter Pence.
Here are the stats comparing Julio Urias’ and Clayton Kershaw’s first full seasons. Keep in mind that Kershaw pitched 107.1 innings compared to Urias’ 77.
Urias: 3.39 ERA 1.45 WHIP 9.5 H/9 3.6 BB/9 9.8 K/9
Kershaw: 4.26 ERA 1.49 WHIP 9.1 H/9 4.3 BB/9 9.7 K/9
The stats are very similar, although Urias did beat Kershaw by nearly a full run in ERA. Like Kershaw, Urias also had pitch count issues, although Urias was treated differently with a stricter pitch count per start. He was swapped from the rotation to the bullpen and even sent down to the minors for some time.
Both, however, had troubles consistently going past five innings during their first full seasons. Both struggled with limiting walks, which drove up the pitch count.
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One advantage I would give young Julio over the younger version of Kershaw is that he has a changeup that is 10 miles per hour slower than his fastball. That is quite a difference in speeds, and with more pitches in his arsenal, it will not be easy for hitters to sit on the fastball against Julio Urias like they did against a young Clayton. Clayton did not, and still does not, have a dangerous and consistently effective changeup.
The thing about Clayton though, is that he has one of the best work ethics in the game and continues to push himself no matter how good he has become; and it all started from a young age. Julio will need to have a relentless work ethic to even dream about reaching the caliber of Clayton Kershaw.
The main difference between the two is that Kershaw continued to find different ways to get better because he had fewer weapons at his disposal. He sacrificed a little velocity for control, developed a slider and a pickoff move that is arguably the best in the game, while still trying to master a changeup.
Urias already has all the pitches he will need from the get-go, but he needs to master control over them to help lessen the walks and improve his ability to pitch deeper into games. Urias also already has a filthy pickoff move that is so good, some question if it’s a balk.
This season will give us another chance to compare the two stars since Urias is likely to spend the rest of the season in the rotation after spending the first few weeks in extended spring training.
Kershaw drastically cut his ERA during his second season (4.26 to 2.79). Urias has only made two starts so far, but his ERA is currently only 0.84 in 10.2 innings after posting a 3.39 ERA last season.
While Julio Urias still has ways to go in order to be on Clayton Kershaw’s level, the similarities are evident. If Urias can get anywhere close to Kershaw’s caliber then the Dodgers will have a one-two punch capable of leading them to multiple World Series runs.