6. Jose Urena, RHP
Drafted: N/A (International signing out of the Dominican Republic)
Age: 22 Height: 6'3" Weight: 172 lbs.
Last December, Sam and I locked ourselves in the Sistine Chapel cum clave to determine who would reign supreme between Jose Urena, Brian Flynn, and Anthony DeSclafani. None of the three pitchers have an overwhelming advantage over the other two. Urena is the youngest and has the best stuff, Flynn will reach the majors this year, and DeSclafani put up the best stats the last two seasons. White smoke finally bellowed from the roof, and our two-man College of Cardinals selected Jose Urena.
We chose Urena because he represents the only viable mid-rotation starter of the three. He pitched an impressive 149 and two-thirds innings at a 3.73 ERA last season, relying on a strong mid-90s fastball and changeup combination. I find it unusual that he can't strike out more batters with such an effective fastball, but he more than makes up for it with plus-control of his pitches. Urena's 4.7 walk percentage ranked as the second best walk rate in the Florida State League last year.
His largest hurdle required to reach the majors will be developing a breaking pitch as good as his fastball and changeup. He employs a slider to limited success - a deficiency that may create problems for him in Double-A. Despite this fault, he looks more polished than most prospects at his age, and he throws with real authority. Even if he never obtains a serviceable breaking pitch, he could slot in easily as a late-inning reliever. Sam and I wouldn't rate Urena so highly if we thought this was his most likely outcome, however. That's his floor.
I have underestimated him in the past, and he has quickly exposed me as a hack writer. I wouldn't call him my prospect nemesis, however. That's a title reserved for Paul Goldschmidt, whom I recall saying was a bad player circa 2010. It turns out you can strike out 161 times in 599 plate appearances in high Class A and become an elite major league hitter. I have wandered far away from Urena here. I didn't consider him a top 20 prospect following his 4.33 ERA performance for Jamestown in 2011, but his fastball command improved substantially the following season. Given his record of making timely adjustments, I'm optimistic that he will perform well in the upper minors.
Barring any unforeseen setbacks in Double-A, he strikes me as a candidate to join the big league club starting in 2015. I like him as a durable innings-eater that won't issue many walks. Hail to Pope Urena.