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Tom Murphy is a rare power hitting catcher

This one is a gamble, but I think it will pay off.

Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of these drawn out interminable prospect stories. Whether it’s Alen Hanson finally getting his chance and shining, or Austin Meadows, or now Tom Murphy.

History

Fresh out of the University of Buffalo, Tom was selected 105th overall in the third round of the 2012 MLB draft. It did not take long for him to showcase his power with six home runs and 38 RBIs across 55 games in Low-A ball that same year. 2013 was no different with 19 home runs across 80 games at A followed by three home runs across 20 games at Double-A. Sadly in 2014, he nursed a shoulder injury which limited him to a handful of games.

However in 2015 the hype was behind him and he had 13 home runs across 72 games in Triple-A and then three home runs across 11 games in the pros slashing .257/.333/.535. 2016 was a widely anticipated breakout for him until an oblique injury limited everything. 2017 seemed like he had missed his opportunity as Jonathan Lucroy, one of the top catchers with the Brewers the last few years now had the spot as the starting catcher. He moved on to Oakland and in stepped Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters.

This year

But now Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters are both hitting below .250 with minimal power and the Rockies are giving Murphy his shot.

In the six games he has played it has not been flashy. He has six hits in as many games, two doubles, three RBIs, one walk, 10 strikeouts and nary a run with his .261 average. It’s clear he is adjusting to the majors and trying a bit too hard to crush the ball with his swing (41.7% strikeout rate and a .462 BABIP). This is actually good news as he’ll calm down at the plate and that is when he becomes a real threat.

Sure the strikeout-to-walk ratio scares me but he has shown me just enough to know that the hit tool can be there at the pros without being so good that everyone scooped him up instantly (as I just picked him up yesterday). This is a catcher who has top 5 hit capability and could be one of the more dominant power catchers in fantasy. If he can keep his average above .250, then I’m okay with a high strikeout total given the equally strong chance that he can hit a home run every five games. Injury concerns are also there, as two of the last four years he has suffered serious injuries. But the favorable field coupled with his power and upside are too much for me to pass up.

Hit tool

He is typically a 15-20% line drive rate but he is up to 46% currently. There is some regression here; however, this means his fly ball rate (currently at 23%) should rise to more like 40%, meaning we could see more home runs and fewer doubles.

He isn’t hitting to the opposite field as much as he normally does (currently 15% vs. 20-25%) and he is averaging about 5% fewer pitches seen per plate appearance. All of this tells me he is shaking off the jitters that come with being in the professional level again. He is jumping on pitches and not being as patient and trusting his swing.

If the team can work towards getting him comfortable (which should come with more playing time) then I think we see more hits to the opposite field, more fly balls and some runs to go with those RBIs.

Fantasy impact

Murphy is currently only 5% owned.

If you have the following catchers then you don’t need to worry about Tom Murphy: JT Realmuto, Francisco Cervelli, Evan Gattis, Buster Posey, Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, Willson Contreras and Gary Sanchez.

If you do NOT have one of those eight catchers than I would seriously consider investing early in Tom. I dropped Lucroy for him yesterday, seeing their averages as commensurate but a much better power tool behind Murphy. It has become clear that Colorado wants to give him a shot and he should see some serious playing time as long as he can keep his batting average at a reasonable level. Current home run leaders among catchers are Evan Gattis (14 HR across 64 games), Gary Sanchez (13 HR across 60 games), and Yasmani Grandal, Salvador Perez, and Mike Zunino (11 each). I could see Tom sitting along these names through the remainder of the year if he can keep that average up (which would put him above Sanchez, Grandal, Perez and Zunino who are all below .250).

Poll

Will he be up for the next month?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Yes, he’s here to stay
    (32 votes)
  • 28%
    No, short-term fill-in
    (13 votes)
45 votes total Vote Now