Welcome to part 12 of the annual Dodgers Nation player grades and season reviews, this time for the 2022 season. Up next in the series is a pitcher who has established himself as the ace of the LA pitching staff: Julio Urias. Check out the full series here.
Early in the 2022 season, there were concerns about Julio Urias. His velocity was down, and after winning 20 games in 2021, he started the season 3-6.
Things got better from there. After losing a game in San Francisco on June 12 to drop to 3-6, Julio went 14-1 with a 1.79 ERA the rest of the season. The Dodgers won 17 of his 19 starts in those last four months of the season, and he went on to finish third in the Cy Young voting after leading the National League with a 2.16 ERA.
If it’s possible for a pitcher to have two straight breakout seasons, Urias has done it. In 2021, his 32 starts represented the first time in his career as he started more than 15 games in a season, and he finished seventh in the Cy Young voting after going 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA. That’s a breakout, but he got even better in 2022.
Urias doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, which works against him in advanced stats like FIP that attempt to predict how good he’ll be in the future. But he has a lengthy history of limiting hard contact, and while his .229 BABIP allowed in 2022 might have been unsustainably low, his overall career BABIP allowed is .271, well below the league average. Simply put, hitters have a hard time hitting the ball well against Julio, which is a good recipe for success.
Fan Vote Results
With over 2,000 fan votes, the results are overwhelming: Julio earned an A in 2022.
Over 80% of our voters give Julio an A for his outstanding season. Almost everyone else gave him a B, with one commenter saying the relatively low inning count — he averaged 5? innings per start — kept it from being an A for him. Nineteen people gave Urias an F, and only one commented admitting to clicking the wrong button by mistake, so there are 18 people out there somewhere I don’t want to meet. Another handful gave him a C, but that’s about as indefensible as giving him an F.
Dodgers Nation Take
Julio’s 2022 season was an absolute A season. He led the league in ERA and held down a rotation that saw Walker Buehler struggle and then go down with Tommy John surgery, Clayton Kershaw miss ten starts with back problems, and Tony Gonsolin miss six weeks at the end of the season with a forearm strain . Urias and Tyler Anderson were the only pitchers not to miss a start, and to be as great as Julio was under those circumstances is very impressive.
It’s hard to believe Julio is still just 26 years old; not many pitchers pitch their seventh season at age 25. His shoulder injury from 2017 might end up being a blessing in disguise for him, as his arm has relatively low mileage considering his early start. He’s thrown almost exactly 600 innings in the big leagues, which is pretty reasonable for a guy through age 25.
Urias is under contract for 2023, and then he becomes a free agent. As a Scott Boras client, he’s probably not interested in signing an extension before testing the market, so this could be his final season in Dodger blue.
With the shift being banned, pitchers who pitch to contact are at risk of being disproportionately impacted, which could affect Julio in 2023. He’s left-handed so he faces more right-handed hitters, which will mitigate those concerns somewhat (lefty hitters are more affected by the shift), but it’s still something to keep an eye on.
Steamer projects a big fall from grace for Julio in 2023, but that’s mostly because Steamer doesn’t believe it’s possible to be successful inducing weak contact, but Urias has a multiple-year track record of doing just that, so we’ll see.
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