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The story of Uriah the Hittite is a fairly famous one, even if Uriah himself is a relatively obscure name. Uriah was one of the Mighty Warriors of King David—the same David who killed Goliath in single combat, and later became ruler of a kingdom whose prosperity was rivaled only by the breadth of the bad sports metaphors he and Goliath would generate for thousands of years.

The famous part of the story is that David, while on the roof of his palace, saw an incredibly beautiful woman bathing one day, and had her brought to him so that they could do something that gets talked about all the time in the Bible but people in church tell you not to do. This woman was Bathsheba, immortalized in art and song such as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and, it came out later, she was the wife of Uriah, one of David’s top soldiers.

The result of doing things people in church tell you not to do, as is sometimes the case, was that Bathsheba got pregnant. David, in an attempt to cover up his involvement, recalled Uriah from the front lines of the war he was fighting to go sleep with his wife. Uriah refused, because he was a loser he was honor-bound for some reason not to do so while the war was ongoing. So David sent him back to the front with a sealed order from the king to his commander: At the star of the next battle, Uriah would be placed at the head of the formation, and when the battle began, all the other soldiers would step back, leaving Uriah alone in no-man’s land.

And so it was done and Uriah was killed, and God cursed David for what must be the most egregious violation of Bro Code in the history of the ancient world.

There are many lessons to be taken from this story: Don’t creep on bathing women, for instance. Don’t sleep with your buddy’s wife. If you do sleep with your buddy’s wife, don’t get her pregnant. If you do get her pregnant, don’t lie about it. If you do get caught lying about it, don’t send your friend into war alone so he dies, or else God will curse you, no matter how much He liked you before. And let’s be real—even a cursory reading of the Old Testament reveals a vengeful God who doled out some harsh punishment for some real ticky-tack infractions, but David earned whatever punishment he got for this, and then some.

But while all of those are useful conclusions to draw from this story, the one that applies to baseball and PECOTA and Julio Urias (whose similarity in name to Uriah the Hittite was the source of this lengthy exegesis), is that being alone isn’t fun.

Urias isn’t just alone—he’s unique. He was outstanding in full-season ball as a 16-year-old, and he’s held his own at pretty much every level over a three-year professional career that has advanced at about the pace you’d expect it to if he’d been placed in the Midwest League as a 21-year-old out of UCLA, to the point where he posted a 2.77 ERA and a 4.9 K/BB ratio in Double-A as an 18-year-old.

For all the talk about the tension between scouting and sabermetrics, they’re both empirical sciences—one largely qualitative, the other largely quantitative—and both run into trouble with Urias.

Qualitative analysis tells us that Urias is big enough (6-foot-2, 205 pounds if you want to bring numbers into it) to start in the majors with three plus pitches and improving command. He’s BP’s No. 6 prospect because you can watch him pitch and see the makings of an ace.

Quantitatively, we have nothing to go on. We know that players who succeed against older competition tend to do well in the majors, but how far does that extend? To 18-year-olds in Triple-A? To 16-year-olds in Low-A? We don’t know, because nobody in modern baseball has ever done that. We can’t even toss out age and compare Urias on the numbers alone, because there really isn’t much to go on from that perspective either. Urias has thrown, in a three-year pro career, 222 1/3 innings, all as a starter. Clayton Kershaw has thrown more than that in four of the past five seasons.

Perhaps no player that highly regarded and that close to the majors has a more uncertain and more intriguing future than Urias does. Since PECOTA can predict up to 10 seasons in the future, we’d be interested in seeing what it says about Urias, seeing as how he’ll only be 28 in 2025.

Year

IP

DRA

WARP

2016

63 1/3

4.58

0.5

2017

197

4.46

1.2

2018

187

4.37

1.2

2019

198

4.44

1.2

2020

178

4.34

1.2

2021

180

4.29

1.3

2022

168

4.26

1.3

2023

159

4.29

1.2

2024

158

4.28

1.2

2025

155

4.24

1.2

In other words, PECOTA took a look at Urias and sent him to the front of the formation, and then told the rest of the army to step back.

And can you blame it? How do you project a player with no track record to speak of and no realistic comps? Can you apply a normal aging curve to a player like this? Can you even assume he can hold up to a professional starter’s workload, since he hasn’t even come close to doing that yet?

These questions remain even on the qualitative side—not only durability, but what happens if he keeps growing? Children grow, and even though he’s at Triple-A, Urias is still pretty much a child. Whether you use numbers or not, it’s tough to draw definitive conclusions on this little data.

Urias is an extreme case—perhaps the extreme case—but he’s a useful reminder of how much uncertainty is baked into something like a 10-year PECOTA projection. No. 6 global prospect ranking or not, Urias is still a 19-year-old who’s never pitched a full season.

Will he become a consistent 1.2-WARP pitcher for the next 10 years? Probably not. Will he come up to the majors and get killed, and will everyone forget his name? Maybe. Will he be so great that people will write songs about him and draw religious significance from him 3,000 years in the future? Maybe. We don’t have enough data to rule anything out.

Thank you for reading

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tearecrules
2/19
Between Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen, and Shrek I've listened to that song a lot more than I'd care to admit. I never got the David and Bathsheba reference. David, Deliliah, the first-person declaration of faith; yup. Not Bathsheba. It's clearly there, never clicked.
gandriole
2/19
Meanwhile, Jack Flaherty is less than a year older than Urias, has all of 95 IP of Midwest League experience and projects more favorably than Urias until the 2020 season.
bhalpern
2/19
It does seem like Pecota learned it's lesson...
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8573
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8964
MikePemulis
2/19
Does anyone have Jose Altuve's 10 year projections from his 16-18 yr old years? I feel like he's the hitting equivalent. I know hitter projections tend to be more accurate but he was equally as young and about 4 inches away from being handicap parking eligible.
TheArtfulDodger
2/19
Urias reached Triple-A at 19, while Altuve reached Double-A (and then the Majors) at 21. So not exactly the equivalent in that sense. Altuve reached Low-A at 18, whereas Urias was 16. Basically, Altuve was about 2 years ahead of Urias every step of the way (thus far)
sam19041
2/19
So bottom line: How do we project Urias? We don't!

Not sure that's very helpful frankly.
davinhbrown
2/20
Real or fantasy. Own him in leagues, or a Dodgers fan. He'll hold all our attentions soon enough.

Is he Fernando?

Will he be part teenage Doc Gooden and part lefty Maddox?

lopkhan00
2/20
Just wanted to note this was a very entertaining read - kudos.