Julio Urías played a massive role in the Los Angeles Dodgers World Series run in 2020. He made two starts in October that year, but it was his work out of the bullpen that made the biggest difference. Urías became that lockdown multi-inning reliever Dave Roberts could bring in during big moments.
The young southpaw was put into the highest of pressure situations as he pitched the final three innings of Game 6 to clinch the Dodgers’ first World Series in 32 years. Urías has since graduated to the starting rotation and has been one of the best starters in the entire sport, which will certainly get him paid.
While the Dodgers are banged up, they still have a lot of starting pitching depth and, with how playoff baseball is, having another starter that converts to being a wipeout reliever could increase the team’s chances of achieving glory.
That raises the question: who should this year’s Julio Urías be? Some might say Dustin May after his impressive return from Tommy John, but perhaps it should be another lefty.
Andrew Heaney should be the Dodgers’ 2020 Julio Urías this year
Assuming Clayton Kershaw can be healthy for the playoffs after throwing a bullpen on Friday, Heaney becomes the odd man out in the rotation … who actually has a lot of value as a bullpen arm that comes in for 2-3 innings and swings a game.
Tyler Anderson and Tony Gonsolin have proven they belong in the playoff rotation. Some fans might be concerned about their lack of velocity and playoff experience, but they have pitched far too well to get booted from the rotation.
Thus, the playoff rotation looks something like along the lines of Urías, Kershaw, Anderson, Gonsolin and May (if needed). Ryan Pepiot is another potential depth option for the bullpen with Heaney slotting into Urías’ former role.
Heaney has the make-up to be successful as the 2020 Urías. His whiff rate this season after the Dodgers helped him develope a better slider has been exceptional and would be great out of the bullpen. Heaney is in the 97th percentile in K rate, 93rd percentile in chase rate, and 91st percentile in whiff rate.
The concern, however, is when Heaney does allow contact — it’s typically hard, as he’s only in the ninth percentile in hard-hit rate. Those hard hits often come later in games, though, after he’s seen the lineup multiple times. While the sample size is small, hitters have a .552 OPS against Heaney the first time facing him, a .653 OPS the second time, and a 1.027 the third time.
Those numbers scream reliever, especially considering Heaney has only thrown 35.2 innings this season and has pitched five or more innings just twice.
Depending on how the playoffs shake out, the Dodgers could stack Heaney with either Tony Gonsolin or Dustin May. Gonsolin or May could throw the first 4-5 innings of the game with Heaney providing the next 2-3, and in a perfect world, bridge the gap to Evan Phillips in the ninth.
Pretty good plan, no?