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By Jon Weisman
Because of the careful way the Dodgers have controlled his innings at a young age, 19-year-old Julio Urias only had five wins in his first 50 career starts. Thankfully, no one judged him on that.
For the record, Urias has picked up career victories No. 6 and No. 7 in the past two weeks, most recently with six innings of one-run ball in Double-A Tulsa’s 2-1 victory Wednesday over Frisco.
Urias struck out eight and allowed six baserunners in a slender 81 pitches. In August, Urias has a 2.53 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with 22 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings, and he hasn’t allowed a home run. For the season in Double-A, Urias has a 3.03 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 71 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings.
For comparison, at age 19 with Double-A San Antonio, Fernando Valenzuela had a 3.10 ERA and 1.30 WHIP with 162 strikeouts in 174 innings. In a much different era, Valenzuela completed 11 of his 25 starts in 1980 before his callup to the Dodgers, for whom he pitched 17 2/3 innings in relief without allowing an earned run, striking out 16.
Now, let’s take our tour of the system …
The long game: A 15-inning affair Wednesday yielded gaudy numbers for Triple-A Oklahoma City catcher Austin Barnes, who went 5 for 8 in what would become an 8-5 Dodger victory. (A three-run walkoff homer by Darwin Barney ended it.) Barnes has a .385 on-base percentage for Oklahoma City this season and has eight hits in his past 12 at-bats. Three of Barnes’ hits Wednesday came in extra innings.
Batting leadoff, Scott Schebler actually reached base one more time than Barnes, going 3 for 5 with a double and three walks. Corey Seager went 2 for 8 and is OPSing .721 in August. He has nine homers with Oklahoma City but none since July 28.
Daniel Coulombe pitched two shutout innings and extended his scoreless streak to 11 2/3 innings with 12 strikeouts. And on Monday, Eric Surkamp pitched seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball against Tacoma and has thrown 15 straight scoreless frames.
The long road: Since his return from the disabled list, Tulsa righty Jose De Leon has increased his innings by one each time out. On Tuesday, the promising righty pitched four innings, facing 15 batters and striking out seven of them, while allowing only a hit and a walk.
However, that outing didn’t even get the Drillers 30 percent through their game against Frisco. In a contest that lasted 14 innings, Tulsa fell 5-3. Entering the game in relief, Jharel Cotton ended up going six innings, allowing two runs in the fifth and then shutting out the RoughRiders over his final five innings. Cotton allowed six baserunners and struck out seven. Cotton is averaging 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings for Tulsa.
On a longer road than either De Leon or Cotton is 25-year-old Ross Stripling, who is making his comeback from Tommy John surgery. In his past two starts, Stripling has gone 13 innings, allowing two runs on 10 hits, walking one and striking out 11.
The long climb: Second baseman Willie Calhoun was at Yavapai College in Arizona in June. Then he was drafted by the Dodgers and went to Rookie League Ogden. Then to Single-A Great Lakes. And on Tuesday, he made his debut with High A Rancho Cucamonga.
The reason? Calhoun just keeps hitting. Calhoun’s .931 OPS with the Loons earned him the promotion to the Quakes, for whom he has reached base four times in his first eight plate appearances, including two walks and a double.
Two other recent promotees have gotten off to hot starts. First, 23-year-old 28th-round pick Kyle Garlick, has a .417 on-base percentage and .864 slugging percentage in his first 24 plate appearances for Rancho. On August 15, Garlick singled, doubled, homered and walked in four trips to the plate.
In addition, 19-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo, the Dodgers’ second-round pick in 2014, has a .370 OBP while slugging .593 in 27 plate appearances for the Quakes. Those averages were even higher before Verdugo went 1 for 8 in his past two games.
Also … Gage Green, taken in the 35th round of this year’s draft from Oklahoma State, went 4 for 4 with two doubles and a walk August 14 against Helena. Over his past five games, Green is 10 for 23 with five doubles and two walks. … Since July 15, Dominican Summer League outfielder Daniel Padilla is 24 for 60 for an even .400 batting average. Of the 24 hits, 23 are singles.
Oklahoma City Dodgers (AAA): 75-49 (first place)
Tulsa Drillers (AA): 55-66 overall, 25-27 second half
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (High A): 68-54 overall, 27-25 second half
Great Lakes Loons (Low A): 60-59 overall, 22-29 second half
Ogden Raptors (Rookie): 30-27 overall, 11-8 second half
AZL Dodgers: 23-25 overall, 11-9 second half
DSL Dodgers (Rookie): 25-44
Top 10 prospects (as ranked by MLB Pipeline)