Julio Cesar Urias Acosta
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 11", Weight 160 lb.
Mexican pitcher Julio Urias was only 17 years old when he pitched a perfect inning in the 2014 Futures Game on July 13, 2014, becoming the youngest player to take part in the annual showcase of baseball's top prospects.
Signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013, Urias was immediately sent to a competitive league, pitching for the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. Players even two or three years older than him would normally begin their careers at the more relaxed Rookie League level in Arizona and Florida, where there are hardly any spectators and the focus is on instruction, but Julio was thrown to the wolves, as it were, and did quite well for himself, going 2-0, 2.48 in 18 starts. The young lefthander pitched only 54 innings, but those were very good, as he allowed only 44 hits and 16 walks, while striking out 67. In 2014, he was assigned to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League and continued to have the better over hitters many years his senior, going 1-1, 3.44 in 17 games over the first half. The Dodgers continued to limit his innings severely, but there was no hiding his talent, which resulted in his invitation to Target Field in Minneapolis, MN at the mid-season mark. He finished the season with a record of 2-2, 2.36 in 25 games, striking out 109 in 87 2/3 innings.
Urias was invited to the Dodgers' big league spring training in 2015 and immediately impressed teammates and observers with his stuff. There was speculation that he could be pitching in the big leagues before the end of the season, age be damned, but he ended up spending the whole year in the minors. He made 18 starts, spread out among four different teams from the AZL Dodgers to the AAA Oklahoma City Dodgers. He went 3-5, 3.81, logging 80 1/3 innings and striking out 88 opponents.
He was back at Oklahoma City to start 2016 and was dominant in the early going as he put together a streak of 27 consecutive scoreless innings in early May. He was called up to Los Angeles on May 26th and was set to make his major league debut before turning 20. His much anticipated first game fell a bit flat, however, as he struggled to get out of the 1st inning against the New York Mets on May 27th, giving up 3 runs in the frame; he pitched 2 2/3 innings in all but was not involved in the decision. He was the first teenager to start a major league game since Felix Hernandez in his debut season 11 years earlier. Urias was sent back to the minors after the game but only two days later was called back to L.A. when P Alex Wood was placed on the disabled list. He made his second start on June 2nd and was charged with a 7-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs as he gave up long balls to Jose Baez, Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant in five innings of work. The Dodgers were being careful with Julio given his young age, limiting him to 90 pitches per start. he had his best start yet on June 12th, when he kept the San Francisco Giants off the scoreboard for five innings, before giving up a two-run homer to Brandon Belt with one out in the 6th. Unfortunately, it was enough to saddle him with a 2-1 loss. He earned his first win on June 28th when he defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-5. He went 5-2, 3.39 in 18 games, including 15 starts, with 84 strikeouts in 77 innings. The Dodgers kept him as an ace in the hole for the postseason, not using him until Game 5 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, but when he finally came to the mound, he pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Rich Hill and Joe Blanton and received credit for the 4-3 win. He was then tabbed to start Game 4 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs but gave up 4 runs in 5 innings and was charged with a 10-2 loss. After the season, he was named to the 2016 Topps All-Star Rookie Team as the lefthanded pitcher.
In spite of his success the previous season, Urias began 2017 back in Oklahoma City. He was called up on April 27th, but after three solid starts during which he gave up only 2 runs in 17 innings without figuring in the decision, he was hit hard in his next two outings, both losses, with 13 runs allowed in in 6 1/3 innings. The Dodgers sent him back down with a record of 0-2, 5.40, then on June 10th, he suffered a shoulder injury while pitching in AAA. The decision was to have him undergo surgery which would put him out of action for over a year. He had been 3-0, 2.59 in Oklahoma City in addition to his time in the big leagues. He finally made his return on September 15, 2018, when he pitched a scoreless inning of relief in a 17-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. He had no decisions and did not give up any runs in 3 appearances, totaling 4 innings. He saw more work in the postseason than in the regular season, as he made 4 appearances in the NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers, earning the win in Game 4, and another 3 in the 2018 World Series, which the Dodgers lost to the Boston Red Sox.
He started the 2019 season in the Dodgers' starting rotation, but was moved to the bullpen after 4 starts. His last start on April 18th was his best, as he limited the Brewers to 1 hit and 2 walks in 6 innings, while striking out 9. He earned his first win of the season that day. In relief, he picked up saves in consecutive outings on May 6th and May 10th. On May 13th, however, he was arrested outside a mall in Los Angeles on suspicion of domestic battery, following reports of an argument in a nearby parking lot. He was immediately placed on administrative leave for seven days by Major League Baseball while they were gathering additional information. He was reinstated on May 22nd although no details were made available about what the findings of the investigation were. On August 17th, he was handed a 20-game suspension by MLB as a result of the incident, including the 5 games he had missed in May. Overall, he pitched 37 games, including 8 starts, logging 79 2/3 innings with a record of 4-3, 2.49. He gave up just 59 hits and struck out 85 batters, even though he did not have a set role on the pitching staff. He pitched 3 times in the postseason, all in relief, as the Dodgers were upset by the Washington Nationals in the Division Series. After two scoreless outings, he was charged with the loss in Game 4 on October 7th. He relieved Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda to start the 5th with the score tied at 1, but allowed a run and placed a couple of runners on base before Pedro Baez gave up a three-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman that sealed the issue of the game.
In 2020, he was the starting pitcher in 10 of his 11 appearances, going 3-0, 3.27 in 55 innings for a Dodgers team that posted the best record in the majors during the pandemic-shortened season. In the postseason, he pitched 6 times, including one start each in the NLCS and World Series. He was consistently excellent, going 4-0 with 1 save and an ERA of 1.17 in 23 innings, with 29 strikeouts. His most memorable performance came in Game 6 of the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays on October 27th, when he came on in the 7th inning as his team's 7th pitcher of the evening, with a 2-1 lead and a runner on third base. He struck out pinch-hitter Yandy Diaz to end the inning, then retired the next six batters he faced in order to clinch the Dodgers' first championship since 1988.
He continued on a dominating track at the start of the 2021 season as he went 3-0, 2.81 in his first four starts as part of a star-studded Dodgers rotation. On April 20th, he set a new personal best by striking out 11 batters against just one walk and one hit in seven scoreless innings in defeating the Seattle Mariners, 1-0. In spite of his great work on the mound and an 11-3 record in the first half, he was not invited to the All-Star Game, but he was even more dominant after the break. He went 9-0, 2.04 in 14 starts after the mid-summer classic to become the only 20-game winner in the majors that season, notching his 20th win in his final start on October 2nd against the Milwaukee Brewers. His winning percentage of .870 was also tops in the majors, and he accumulated a career-best 195 strikeouts in 185 2/3 innings, finishing with a record of 20-3, 2.96. The most recent pitcher to achieve a 20-win season under the age of 24 had been none other than his teammate, Clayton Kershaw, back in 2011. However, the postseason was nothing like the previous year's. For reasons difficult to understand in hindsight, the team decided to use some of their top pitchers in situations other than their normal roles, and while it worked at first, it created a snowball effect that led to their upset loss to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. Julio was at the center of these controversial moves, alongside mid-season acquisition Max Scherzer. Everything began on script, as he started Game 2 of the Division Series on October 9th, following a start by Scherzer in the Wild Card Game and one by Walker Buehler in Game 1. He pitched very well, giving up 1 run on 3 hits in 5 innings, but was pinch-hit for early as the Dodgers ran away with a 9-2 win. There was some speculation that manager Dave Roberts perhaps wanted him to be available to start a decisive Game 5, if it came to that. And it did indeed come to that, after Scherzer and Buehler started the next two games - but Roberts turned instead to short reliever Corey Knebel as an opener, with Brusdar Graterol taking over in the 2nd and Urias finally coming in in the 3rd. It's not clear what was achieved by that manipulation, and Julio pitched well - but only for 4 innings - allowing 1 run, and left with the game tied at 1. Later on in the game, Roberts used Scherzer to close out the tense 2-1 win after the Dodgers had scored in the top of the 9th, but used a pinch-hitter for closer Kenley Jansen in the process. With both Urias and Scherzer off their normal routine, the Dodgers had to again use shenanigans in the Championship Series, starting an opener in a Game 1 loss, and then turning to Urias again as a reliever - but this time a short reliever - in the 8th inning of Game 2. He blew the Dodgers' two-run lead and the Braves won that game as well. By the time Julio finally made another start, in Game 4, he was all out of whack and gave up 5 runs in as many innings in a 9-2 loss.
- 2016 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- NL ERA Leader (2022)
- NL Wins Leader (2021)
- NL Winning Percentage Leader (2021)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 2 (2021 & 2022)
- 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (2021)
- Won one World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020
- Ken Gurnick: "Dodgers don't expect to rush Urias back to action", mlb.com, January 31, 2018. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Dodgers ready to unleash irrepressible Julio Urias, wise beyond his 19 years", USA Today Sports, May 26, 2016. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Dodgers' 19-year-old rookie Julio Urias holding up under bright spotlight", USA Today Sports, June 13, 2016. 
- Doug Padilla (Associated Press): "Dodgers' Julio Urias with big shoes to fill soon", Yahoo! News, April 5, 2022. 
- Jesse Sanchez: "Urias impresses Dodgers in live batting practice: Young left-hander shows off impressive skills against Pederson, Heisey", mlb.com, March 1, 2015. 
- Jesse Sanchez: "Urias prepping for '17 in comforts of Culiacan: Young Dodgers lefty learning about his body, hoping to build on promising '16", mlb.com, January 31, 2017.