By Jon Weisman
Once Julio Urias takes his big-league ready stuff (detailed here by Ben Badler of Baseball America) to the mound Friday and throws his first pitch at Citi Field against the New York Mets, the immediate question will be — how many more pitches will he throw?
Urias’ season high in the minors this year is 82 pitches. That was spread across six innings, or 13.6 pitches per start — which is basically a Clayton Kershaw level of efficiency that you can only hope he might approach in his MLB debut. His Double-A high with Tulsa in 2015 was 89 pitches.
Someday, Urias will be allowed to break the restraints, but for now, you can’t imagine the 19-year-old hitting triple digits, and the Mets will no doubt be on a mission to make him build up that pitch count as early as possible.
To that end, I asked New York-based MLB.com columnist, Statcast expert and longtime Dodger blogger Mike Petriello what to expect from the Mets’ offense.
“Their offense is kind of in a very weird spot,” Petriello said, “because if you look at their infield right now, pretty much everybody except for Neil Walker is hurt. So what the team has done over the course of the season, I’m not necessarily sure how much is actually going to apply on Friday.”
First baseman Lucas Duda is on the disabled list. Asdrubal Cabrera had to come out of Wednesday’s game with back spasms. David Wright has missed 11 starts this season, though he did play Wednesday (before today’s off day) and homered. Names like Matt Reynolds, Ty Kelly and Eric Campbell could be in play.
“If you look at runs per game, they’re actually kind of below average this year,” Petriello said, “because they haven’t been at nearly full strength. If not for (Yoenis) Cespedes crushing the ball, I don’t know where they’d be.”
Cespedes leads the National League with 180 weighted runs created.
Another issue for Urias is that he’ll probably have to face seven right-handed hitters, if not more. When the Mets took the field against Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles on May 12, Curtis Granderson was their only left-handed hitting starter. For the Mets, it’s been an ongoing balance between strengthening their defense with Juan Lagares in center field, or surviving with Cespedes as the anchor of the outfield trio.
“They can’t seem to get a combination of the best bats and the best fielders at the same time,” Petriello said. “Their outfield’s pretty rough. … On balls that weren’t grounders or home runs that went at least 200 feet, the Mets outfield was coming up with something like 20 percent fewer outs than the Major League average.”
Will left or right even matter against Urias? In the small (and arguably irrelevant) sample size of 2016 in the minors, Urias has a reverse split: a 1.04 WHIP against lefty swingers, 0.72 WHIP against righties.
In the end, perhaps most important of all will simply be the stuff Urias offers and how he keeps his composure, from that first pitch and beyond.