Let's get right to it with a song about Los Angeles Dodgers newcomer, the left-hander Julio Urias!
1. Hey nineteen! Julio Urias makes his major league debut Friday (Last week: Not ranked.)
Is he the next Fernando Valenzuela? Dwight Gooden? Felix Hernandez? The first Julio Urias, all of 19 years old, has a chance to be one of the greats. How great? We'll begin to find out Friday, when he makes his major league debut against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Urias, rated as the No. 2 prospect by MLB.com, posted a 1.10 ERA, along with 44 strikeouts and eight walks, at Class AAA Oklahoma City, where he also has a 27-inning scoreless streak going.
He's still a teenager, but it seems like we've been hearing about Urias for a while. In 2014, Urias, then 17, pitched a scoreless inning in the Futures Game against players who were five or six years older. We've been anticipating his arrival, not only because of his talent and high prospect ranking but also because he's in the Dodgers organization, and his country of origin is Mexico. You know who else was a teen sensation from Mexico who pitched for the Dodgers? Fernandomania himself. Urias could be as good, or better, than Valenzuela.
Because of his age, the Dodgers have babied him. Urias has accumulated just 263 1/3 innings over four professional seasons. For that reason, scouts aren't sure how quickly he'll adapt to the majors or how long he'll be able to pitch, both in a given outing and over the long haul. In 2008, the Dodgers temporarily promoted a 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw only to send him back to the minors after eight games, but after a few weeks Kershaw was able to return to the majors for good.
Only a handful of teenagers have reached the major leagues since 2000, as Joe Sheehan noted, and most of the teen innings were thrown by Felix Hernandez. The others are Madison Bumgarner, who has been World Series MVP, and Dylan Bundy, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Urias isn't a sure thing, but it's an encouraging sign that he's arriving in the majors before his 20th birthday.
2. Yu know who else is pitching this weekend? (LW: NR)
Yu Darvish also was a curiosity when he came over to the Texas Rangers from Japan in 2012, and he ended up being the American League Cy Young runner-up and strikeout king the next season. He made it through 22 starts in 2014 before an injury shelved him, and Tommy John surgery came calling in the spring of 2015. On Saturday, he makes his first start of the year.
Every Darvish start was must-see TV for baseball fans before he got hurt. Now we'll tune in to see how he responds to Tommy John surgery and how he impacts the pennant race for the Rangers. And if you're worried about him doing a 180, as in hesitating to pitch beyond the 180-inning threshold talked about during the returns of Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey, it's likely a moot point since the regular season is a quarter of the way over already.
3-t. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado (LW: Machado NR)
The top three young players in the game. Trout's OPS+ is 168; Harper's 156; Machado's is 166. Another week of this and Harper drops lower. It's just so fun to rank them as equals.
6. The Boston Red Sox's all-time good offense (LW: NR)
Their pitching has been mediocre, as widely expected, but it also hasn't needed to be great because these guys collectively hit like the 1927 Yankees. No, that's not a hyperbolic analogy—the lineup of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., David Ortiz, Travis Shaw, and Xander Bogaerts is raking like few other nines in history:
The Big Red Machine! This new Big Red Sox Machine, however, is due for some regression. Bradley's hitting streak won't go on infinitely, though Betts can be better, and at some point, Boston figures to call up or add a left fielder who can hit (perhaps prospect Andrew Benintendi). The bullpen has been strong; if David Price can get himself right and knuckleballer Steven Wright continues to slay audiences, they'll have about 9/12 of a pitching staff. A trade here, a trade there, and they'll be tough to beat in this life or the next, come playoff time.
7. Clayton Kershaw's K/BB ratio (LW: 5)
It's 95-5, instead of 88-4 like a week ago. A seven-strikeout, one-walk 1-0 shutout of the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday ruined it! He's never going to see 22-to-1 again, the poor sap.
8. Barry Bonds is back to being himself (LW: NR)
After months of good press following his hiring as the Florida Marlins hitting coach, a move that brought him back to the game after years of PED scandals, Bonds caught himself and did a Barry Bonds Thing again, just like old times. When the Dodgers went to Miami recently, outfielder Joc Pederson wanted to say hello to his boyhood idol. Via Big League Stew:
Now that's more like it, Bonds.
9. The A-Rod Dog (LW: NR)
You know who else is back? Alex Rodriguez, who finished a rehab assignment with the Trenton Thunder on Wednesday. He hit a home run in his minor-league farewell, but no thanks to the bat dog, who must have it in for A-Rod like much of the Yankees front office. Here, Hal! Come, Randy! Heel, Hank!
The dog's name is actually Derby and he's a good boy, yes he is!
10. Jake Arrieta (LW: 9)
Have you seen this guy? Well, he's slipping like Kershaw's K/BB ratio. The St. Louis Cardinals nicked him for four earned runs over five innings on Wednesday, the most runs he had allowed in a game in 30 starts, since the Cole Hamels' no-hitter in June. It looks like Arrieta is human after all.