Name: Sean Murphy
Height/Weight: 6’3’’, 215
How Acquired: Selected in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
The Oakland A’s went pitching-heavy during the early rounds of the 2016 draft, but with their fourth overall pick, they went with catcher Sean Murphy, who had seen his draft stock fall thanks to an early season hamate injury. Will Murphy be the A’s catcher of the future?
http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/470233-oakland-a-s-top-50-prosp... Wright State isn’t considered a baseball powerhouse, but there were plenty of scouts around the program in 2016 to watch Murphy. The lanky backstop drew considerable notice during his first two years at WSU and during the Cape Cod League for his 70-grade throwing arm (the scouting scale goes 20-80 with 80 being a Hall of Fame level tool). Before the season, there was talk of Murphy going in the first round.
Murphy got off to a solid start to his 2016 season, but then he injured his hamate bone in early March. He returned after missing just a month, but the injury prevented Murphy from hitting with the same kind of power he displayed before he was hurt. He finished with solid numbers (.287/.408/.507 in 39 games), but he saw his draft stock fall. The A’s made him one of the first selections on Day Two of the draft, taking him with the 83rd overall pick.
After signing with Oakland, Murphy participated in the A’s Arizona draft pick mini-camp. He appeared in one game for the AZL A’s before he was assigned to short-season Vermont. Once again, Murphy got off to a fast start. Through his first 10 games, he was batting .300/.400/.433. That stretch included a game during which he went 4-for-4 with a homer, becoming the first Lake Monsters’ player with a 4-for-4 game since Addison Russell accomplished the feat in 2012.
Murphy collected two hits on July 9, but then went five straight games without a hit (0-for-20) before being sidelined with lingering soreness in the hand. He returned to the field for the final weekend of the season. After going 0-for-3 in his first game back, Murphy went 4-for-6 with a homer to finish off his season on a high note. His final slashline with Vermont was .237/.318/.329 with two homers and a 9:12 BB:K in 76 at-bats.
Murphy was able to participate fully in the A’s fall Instructional League, and he had a solid camp. Although Murphy’s defense was often the star of the show, his bat also made a strong impression. A’s minor league hitting coach Eric Martins worked with Murphy during Instructs and saw plenty of power potential from the Ohio native.
“You lose track because he is so impressive with his arm strength and his catching ability, but he had a really solid camp swinging the bat,” Martins said. “He showed some power. He showed some ability to handle the bat. He had some solid at-bats. He’s a strong, physical kid. He’s going to get all of the credit in the world for what he can do behind the dish, but he’ll be a pleasant surprise at the plate, as well. He has some power behind his swing.”
Sean Murphy Scouting Video (first video by Kimberly Contreras; second by Jeff Ellis)
At 6’3’’, 205, Murphy is bigger than most catchers, but he has shown the athleticism to get down on balls in the dirt and move well from side-to-side behind the plate. His arm is a special tool and gives him a chance to be a special defender at catcher. At the plate, Murphy has a solid understanding of the strike-zone and a center to right-center approach that keeps him from flying off of too many pitches. He is lean but has plenty of strength in his frame and could develop into a 20-homer hitter down-the-road.
“He is a big kid and he’s got some strength. He can hit the ball anywhere out of the ballpark,” Murphy’s signing scout Rich Sparks said. “I have seen him hit the ball out of the ballpark to right-center more than anywhere else.”
A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens likens Murphy physically to big league catcher John Buck. Owens says Murphy has a chance to move up the ranks relatively quickly if everything comes together for him.
“He’s a very good athlete for the catcher position. You talk about major league average and that’s really good. That’s average in the major leagues, so when you talk ‘average arm’ or ‘average running ability’, from a scouting perspective, that equates to major league average,” Owens said. “Murph is a really good athlete. He runs close to major league average and he’s good sized. His arm is really good. It’s an above-average throwing arm. He receives very well. He has raw power. He’s a very smart kid. He’s a kid that going forward he’ll be able to contribute on both sides of the ball. He’ll be a steady climber up the ladder.”
The A’s are thin on catching in the A-ball and Double-A levels of their system, so Murphy will have plenty of opportunities to move quickly if he performs well out of the gate in 2017. His early career development path could be similar to 2011 pick Beau Taylor, who made his full-season debut in Stockton and reached Midland midway through that season. Murphy will be a non-roster invitee to big league camp, so he will get plenty of exposure in front of the A’s big league coaching staff.