The Miami Marlins are currently an organization rich with pitching prospects. Jose Fernandez burst onto the scene in 2013 and now the organizations boasts Andrew Heaney, Tyler Kolek, and Justin Nicolino as players who will make an impact in Miami in the coming years. However, the organization's pitching depth runs much deeper than those three names. Some conversation in the comment section got me thinking about a player who is quickly rising up Miami Marlins prospect rankings. Thanks to that conversation, here is a brief update on Jose Urena, and the breakout season he is having.
The Marlins signed Jose Urena out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. He spent his first two professional seasons with the DSL Marlins before making the jump to Jamestown (the New York Penn League affiliate back then) in 2011. He did not really make much noise in short season Single-A, finishing with a 4.33 ERA in 15 starts.
In 2012 Urena once again jumped a level to full season Single-A with the Greensboro Grasshoppers. There he started performing well. With Greensboro, Urena compiled a 3.38 ERA in 138.1 innings.
2013 was also successful. Urena spent the whole season in high Single-A with Jupiter and upped his innings to a career high 149.2 and finished the season with a 3.73 ERA.
In MLB.com's 2014 midseason prospect rankings Urena was ranked as the 9th best prospect in the Miami Marlins organization. The rankings also offered this brief scouting report on him.
The Dominican right-hander has an above-average fastball that can touch the mid 90s, and he combines it with a solid changeup that has improved considerably. Urena's breaking ball is a combination of a slider and a curve, and it needs to be refined for it to become a consistent weapon in his arsenal.
If that happens, Urena has the chance to start, especially with his above-average command. If it doesn't, he has the chance to be a very good two-pitch bullpen option in the future.
For the entire 2014 season Urena went 13-8 with a 3.33 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 162 innings. He also posted his best strikeout rate since his DSL days at 18.6%. His whole body of work for 2014 is impressive, but he has really finished the season strong. In his final ten starts Urena has 2.09 ERA, with 52 strikeouts to 10 walks. He has gone at least five innings in each start, and never allowed more than four earned runs in a single outing. In four of the ten starts he allowed no earned runs.
It is clear after this jump in performance that Urena is a legitimate prospect and should find himself in the top five for Miami in the latest prospect rankings. At the very least he has entered my top five for Marlins prospects (not that those hold much weight). I'm not ready to say he's better than Heaney or Nicolino but he has certainly grabbed my attention.
Urena will likely be in Spring Training with the Marlins next year, and could have an outside shot at grabbing that final rotation spot. More realistically that final rotation spot will go to Andrew Heaney, and Urena will probably start the season in New Orleans to continue his development.
There is some debate as to whether or not he will remain a starter due those concerns about his breaking ball, but so far his performance suggests he can stick in the rotation. With all the young pitching talent in the organization Urena will have to fight hard to land a spot in the future starting rotation. Too many pitching prospects is certainly a good problem to have. Soon the days of Brad Penny having a place in the starting rotation will be mercifully over.