I'd wouldn't be lying if I told you the star of the show on the Ranger's backfields Tuesday afternoon was wearing a royal blue cap. I would be lying if I told you it had a "T" on it.
If you follow along on Twitter, you know the desert was abuzz with the thought of 17 year-old Dodgers wunderkind Julio Urias taking on Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams and the rest of the "High-A" Rangers farmhands. The truth is, none of them disappointed. Urias is as advertised. He's a freak. It was the best pitching performance I've ever seen by someone his age. He'll be 17 years old all season, and (barring injury) he seems almost certain to end the year in Double-A. The FB was 92-95. At times he was elevating it and the Rangers super-prospects were able to handle it. He showed a + CH including an absolute dazzler that forced a painfully awkward strike 3 swing from Alfaro. When not dispatching the CH, he leaned heavily on another + pitch, his SL. He can throw it for strikes, or he can bury it. He started Gallo off in their first matchup with a doozy that jumped through the backdoor for a called strike. There was a man on third and Urias got sloppy with his sequencing after impressively pitching backwards to the Texas Colossus and he grooved an 0-1 95 mph FB that Joey slammed into CF for an RBI single. The pitch was down (if it had been up, Joey might have hit it to Los Angeles), but it was straight and the real truth is Joey was sitting on it. Texas scored a couple more when Royce Bolinger absolutely clobbered another Urias mistake and turbo-thrusted the ball over the LF fence for a 2-run homer. Urias had a tumor above his left eye removed when he was a kid, so it almost looks as though it's shut. It isn't. His vision is fine and his future is clear. If he stays healthy, he could be very, very good. Stop me if you've heard this one before. A 6'0'' 180lb left hander from Mexico is tearing it up for the Dodgers farm teams and looks likely to make his big league debut at age 19. Who says lightning doesn't strike twice. It's an absurd amount of pressure to put on a kid, but he doesn't carry himself as though he's overburdened by any of it. And for the record, Juilomania sounds dumb.
Julio Urias 3.25.14 (via Tepid Participation)
-As we move closer to official roster announcements, it certainly appears that Gallo, Williams, and Alfaro are Myrtle Beach-bound, while Guzman, Brinson, and Mazara are headed back to Hickory. Before Spring Training began I thought the powers that be would have tried to keep the band together. But as the reports rolled in and the events played out, this made the most sense. Out of this group, I think Condor Guzman has the best shot at a quick-ish promotion. He only played 49 games last year and he might be the most buzzed about player in minor league camp.
-Speaking of Condor, he appeared to be having a blast first thing this morning taking grounders at 2B alongside Chris Bostick. Moving surprisingly well for a giant, out of place human, even he couldn't keep a straight face when I told him he looked good over there. I plan on living a long life, and my chances of seeing a 6'6" left hander in a middle infield position are the same as Fred Phelps being posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
-After Urias left, a righty came in. He was pitching around 90mph. Joey Gallo beat the holy shit out of one of those pitches. It went about 430' and the moment it left the bat, the outfielders took one step, then turned back towards the infield. He is chiseled and ripped, and looks every bit of 6'5" 235lbs. The End.
-Got a chance to meet and chat with Chi Chi. Friendly, good kid. He was not pitching today and turned down my offer to throw a slider against a chain link fence just so I could see it. Just kidding. I didn't offer that. He seemed genuinely uninterested in where he ends up playing. I think he knows the ultimate goal remains the same, regardless of where he starts this season.
-Here's a name to store in the deep recesses of your brain. Not that deep actually, that just made me uncomfortable. Anyway, Ariel Jurado. Just turned 18 in January. Had super saucy numbers in the DSL last year (2.93ERA, 3BB/47K in 49ip). I got to see the stuff today and while it's certainly not overpowering, it's good and he seems to have an idea how to pitch. FB 88-91, CB 73, CH 79. He's already got a good body, listed at 6'1" 180lb so I'm not sure if there's more velocity in there, but who cares. I'm a pitchability/strike thrower whore and this kid fits that fetish.
-Cody Buckel pitched, though not particularly well. Was simply missing his spots and his FB was rather flat. They rolled his first two innings (meaning there were enough pitches thrown/hits/runs/etc that they changed to the next half inning before 3 outs were recorded. This happens often in ST games--especially lower level ones-- otherwise some of them would take forever and use a million pitchers) Velocity wise and mechanically he was fine though, so I'm taking that as a silver lining.
-Keone Kela is intimidating as fuck. Ask the other players, they'll tell you. I like him, and he's really polite, but he's just a tough dude. He's absolutely wired like a closer. As a matter of fact, I asked him if he wanted to close and he gave me a sideways smirk and said "Hell yes." When I asked him where he thought he'd play this year, he said he hoped Frisco but wasn't sure. I like him a lot. He drops F-bombs, he pitches with intent, and he's wired with strong dislike for the opposing team. He gave up a long homer to Ryan Rua the night before and told me "Rua's a strong guy, but I supplied the power." The list of Rangers minor leaguers you'd want to mess with before you messed with Kela, is very, very long. FYI, it's pronounced "kee-O-nee KAY-luh" and it's Hawaiian for "back of the bullpen".
Got one more full day out here, and should get some actual team rosters on Wednesday. I'll be watching the AA/AAA games on the backfields, so stay tuned for more videos. This time I promise to film someone in a blue hat with a "T" across the front.
Also, congrats to Nick Martinez for striking out some big leaguers. Won't be the last time.
Enjoy Baseball! Love Ya!