The baseball world had its eyes on Julio Urias Friday night. When a 19-year-old pitching prospect is set to make his Major League debut, you’re probably gonna want to tune in.
Urias threw only 2.2 innings, though. Five hits, three runs — all earned — with four walks and three strikeouts. He threw 81 pitches.
In this century, only one other teenager made his debut as a starter: Felix Hernandez, who also made his debut at 19.
Hernandez’s first career start fared a bit better than Urias’: Five innings pitched, three hits, two runs, one earned, two walks, and four strikeouts. Hernandez also threw 81 pitches in his debut.
Other teenagers who made their pitching debuts in this century include Dylan Bundy, whose first appearance was in relief and who has remained a reliever in his very short major league career.
Looking at other 19 year olds in history whose rookie seasons came in their last year of teenagedom, a couple of names stand out: Dwight Gooden, Gary Nolan, Bert Blyleven, Catfish Hunter, and Felix Hernandez.
Rookie seasons at 19:
Dwight Gooden: 276 Ks, 31 G/31GS, 7 CG, 3 CGSHO, 218.0 IP, 2.60 ERA, 1.69 FIP.
Gary Nolan: 206 Ks, 33 G/32 GS, 8 CG, 5 CGSHO, 226.2 IP, 2.58 ERA, 2.64 FIP.
Bert Blyleven: 135 Ks, 27 G/25 GS, 5 CG, 1 CGSHO, 164.0 IP, 3.18 ERA, 3.24 FIP.
Catfish Hunter: 82 Ks, 32 G/20 GS, 3 CG, 2 CGSHO, 133.0 IP, 4.26 ERA, 4.42 FIP.
Felix Hernandez: 77 Ks, 12 G/12 GS, 0 CG, 0 CGSHO, 84.1 IP, 2.67 ERA, 2.85 FIP.
First career starts at 19:
Dwight Gooden: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R/ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
Gary Nolan: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R/ER, 2 BB, 8 K.
Bert Blyleven: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 7 K.
Felix Hernandez: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
Gooden was named Rookie of the Year, with good reason, after his rookie season in 1984. Nolan finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1967 and went on to be an All-Star. Hunter and Blyleven went on to be Hall of Famers. Hernandez, also known as King Felix for a reason, is still pitching in the majors with the Seattle Mariners.
The jury is still out on what kind of season Urias will have once he returns to the majors. It’s obvious that Urias is human, and it’s very easy to forget that he’s still a teenager when he pitches. The velocity is there -- he averaged 94.6 MPH on his fastball in his first start. And of course, you can’t judge just by one start alone. Certainly, it would’ve been better if Urias threw more than 2.2 innings, which would’ve probably been in the ranks of Nolan or Hernandez, but you take what you’re given when you throw and the odds just were not in Urias’ favor.
That doesn’t mean that Urias can’t go on to have a career like Gooden’s or Blyleven’s or Hernandez’s. With a little more time down in AAA Oklahoma, Urias could certainly become one solid pitcher and mow down hitters, just as fellow Dodger Clayton Kershaw did. And after all, Kershaw made his debut at the age of 20—showing that there might be nothing to worry about with Urias.
Jen Mac Ramos is a Contributing Writer for Beyond the Box Score. Their work can also be found at Purple Row. You can find them on Twitter at @jenmacramos.