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Angels prospect Walbert Ureña on pace for Major League stardom


ryanmfalla

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By Ryan Falla, AngelsWin.com Columnist 

The Angels have given fans very little to look forward to at the big league level, yet if you look deeper into the organization you will find the beginnings of some truly special stuff within this organization. One of the many bright spots in the Angels near future is pitcher Walbert Ureña, the 19 year flamethrower recently entering the organization as part of the 2020-2021 international free agent class. Despite being just 19 years of age Ureña has already has arguably the best pure fastball in the organization (aside from Ben Joyce) with scouts grading his go to pitch at a 70 on the 20-80 scale. His fastball is already developed to the point of devastation, and with a solid secondary to back it up Ureña has serious potential to make waves across the league as a big league pitcher with the Los Angeles Angels. There is little that stands in the way of success for Ureña, all that is left is a little bit of patience as he puts together the final touches on what will be a special Major League career.

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As mentioned before, Ureña came into the organization out of the 2020-2021 international free agent class and made his debut with the Angels organization out of Rookie Ball in 2022. Through his debut Rookie Ball season Ureña flashed serious potential as he cobbled together 45 strikeouts off of his 37.1 innings of work at 18 years of age. The right hander throws a combination of fastball/sinker/changeup/slider with the changeup being his go-to on the secondary, the pitch itself having enough life to generate actual swings and misses. The sinker is something Ureña and the Angels have been developing this past season as he furthers his ability to generate outs by way of contact. Stamina is also a big focus for the right hander as he’s made multiple appearances that have seen him pitch at least 7 innings three separate times with 10 of his appearances on the year going for 5+ IP. His biggest workload on the year was a 7 IP start against Visalia (Aug.26th) which saw him throw 96 pitches in a no runs, two hit affair ultimately culminating in a win. Ureña was one of the most used pitchers in the Cal League with the 19 year old ranking top 10 in the Cal League across total pitches thrown (1,695 pitches) with the highest total being 2,170 by Seattle’s Shaddon Peavyhouse. 

The Angels current philosophy sees their prospect pitchers undertaking big league workloads while still developing in the minors as multiple Low A pitchers ranked at the top of the Cal League regarding pitch usages. Teammates Leonard Garcia and Jorge Marcheco each saw similar workloads with all three seeing over 90 IP on the season, a mark tallied by just 15 pitchers throughout the entire Cal League. Impressively enough, the trio combined to throw less than 60 pitches in an outing six times across the 61 total outings between the three of them with Ureña himself throwing less than 60 pitches in a start just once on the year. Out of all pitchers who threw more than 90 IP in the Cal League Ureña had the third best HR allowed rate as he’d given up just five on the year. He was Top 5 in Ground Ball percentage (50.4%) while ranking third in Line Drive rate (15.4%). To see the 19 year old Ureña consistently limit the hard hits while managing a big league workload offers plenty of excitement regarding his future development.

Ureña will head into the winter with a focus on physical development as his body grows into maturity. The young star currently sits at 170lbs whilst standing at six foot even. Despite still having strength to grow into Ureña still comfortably tops out in the high 90’s with touches of 100+ and has shown an ability to maintain his velocity as he goes deep into games. As things stand Ureña’s raw pitch mix is so good that even a moderate step forward in command consistency and physical development will take him leaps and bounds beyond the rest of his class. While you don’t want to rush anyone’s development there is a strong chance Ureña could break into the big leagues very young. There are some who believe he could end up relieving for the Angels rather than start when all development is said and done, regardless Ureña projects as an impact arm no matter what role he pitches in. Should the Angels 2023 track record of devastating league injury woes continue into 2024 Ureña could see an early big league debut as a reliever late next year, otherwise you can expect to see the young starter break through come 2025/2026. There are many special things happen in the lower rungs of the Angels organization, Ureña himself being a big part, and should the big league squad tire out your passions for baseball look no further than the kids down in the Minor Leagues who are truly doing something special. There is a lot to love about baseball, and there still is a lot to love about the Angels, perhaps it’s difficult to see now, but in time the fruits of these prospects labor will blossom into something truly magical.

Check out my fellow colleague Taylor Blake Ward's interview with Walbert last week. 

 

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