Editor’s note: This article was written before the offical announcement that Jose Urquidy had been called-up to the Astros to start the series opener in Denver against the Rockies this Tuesday
The Astros pitching development prowess has paid dividends recently in the form of extensive major league and upper minors pitching depth, and it looks like another arm from the Triple-A stable will soon be making his MLB debut. With the Astros in need of a Tuesday starter, rumor has it that Mexican hurler Jose Urquidy will get the call against the Rockies in Coors. It’s a difficult assignment, and one that Urquidy has earned with his outstanding performance thus far in 2019.
Signed in 2015, Urquidy got off to a strong start in the minor leagues, putting up a 127/24 K/BB mark in 125.1 innings across Quad Cities and Lancaster in 2016. Unfortunately, he was on the shelf for all of 2017 and much of 2018, presumably with injury trouble, and had just 57.1 innings to his name in the last two years when the 2019 season kicked off. Since then, Urquidy has taken his game to a new level, dominating in 33 innings for Corpus Christi before a promotion to Round Rock, where he has been even better. Thus far on the year, Urquidy has amassed 104 strikeouts against just 15 walks with 60 hits and 32 runs allowed in 76.2 innings across two offense-friendly environments.
A 6’0” right hander, Urquidy’s ascent has been fueled by a jump in velocity this year. While he had typically worked in an 89-91 type range in the past, this year he has reportedly gotten into the mid-90s, giving him a firm fastball to play off of his already strong secondaries.
His best weapon is a devastating changeup which projects as his out pitch, but he also has a legitimate slider to go with his fastball/change combo, and has moved his projection from that of a spot starter/long relief type to perhaps as much as a #4 starter if his velocity spike holds. Urquidy has always had good command, and this year his location has gotten even better despite him throwing harder than ever before. At 24 years old with little buzz entering the year, Urquidy’s step forward this season certainly wasn’t expected, but has the look of a true breakout supported by the eye test. There’s little for him to work on him in the minors at this point given how well he locates and sequences his consistently-shaped stuff, and his turn in the order lined up with the major league club’s needs, creating an almost ideal situation for his debut, other than the fact that it will come in Coors Field.
It’s hard to stand out in the crowded Astros system, especially when hampered by injuries, but Urquidy’s relative anonymity says little about his big league potential, which is significant. While he’s far from the top pitching prospect in the system, he’s more ready and more healthy than the names ahead of him, and has all the potential to run with this opportunity and seize a consistent rotation role for the foreseeable future. With a handful of starting arms currently shelved, there’s a good possibility that Urquidy gets more than one start to audition for a recurring 2019 role- and I’m betting on him to run with it.