Prospect Report: Billy Murphy

<B>EVERY WEEKDAY FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR</B> will bring you a profile of a top Diamondbacks prospect. That's more than 35 profiles coming to you in just over a month and a half. It all leads up to the Top 50, a ranking of the 50 best prospects on the Diamondback's horizon. Today Managing Editor James Renwick takes a look at perhaps the best arm in the system, specifically the left arm of Billy Murphy.

Vital Statistics:

Name Billy Murphy
Position Pitcher
Age 23
Height 6'0"
Weight 190lbs
Bats  Left
Throws Left
'04 Clubs AA Carolina Mudcats (Southern League)/AA El Paso Diablos (Texas League)

Murphy was a key element in the midseason trade that sent Steve Finley to Los Angeles, in fact, Murphy actually spent two days in '04 in the Dodgers organization.  Essentially Murphy was acquired by the Dodgers in the blockbuster that sent Paul LoDuca to Florida specifically to be dealt to the Diamondbacks in a deal the Dodgers had hoped would make Randy Johnson a Dodger.  Johnson remained a D'Back, Finley went to LA, and Murphy ended up in El Paso, where he was inconsistent, but still considered one of the best starting pitching prospects in the Diamondbacks organization, and one of the better lefty starters in the minors. 

  W-L ERA IP K/BB HR allowed
'04 Carolina 6-4 4.08 103.2 113/59 17
'04 El Paso 3-3 6.68 31.0 24/17 6

Past and Future:  Drafted by the A's in the 3rd round in 2002 after going off at Cal State Northridge (junior year:  129 K/ 69 BB/ 106 IP).  The first thing the A's did was teach him the changeup that (though his curve is his best pitch) might be the one that gets him to stick in the majors.  Threw a no hitter for the Kane County Cougars (Class A Midwest League) in 2003, and followed that with a scoreless inning in the '03 Futures Game.  Before his trade from Florida he was expected to start '05 in the Marlins' starting rotation.

Pitches:  Murphy throws consistently between 88-91 mph and can amp it up to 94 on occasion, but control becomes an issue when he does.  He throws both a '2 seam' and a '4 seam' fastball, and a changeup that has minimal movement but is a full 10 MPH slower than his fastballs, but his best pitch is a Zito-like curveball that when on can break nearly four feet vertically while simultaneously breaking three to five feet horizontally.  When he can spot the curve and throw it for a strike, and effectively out of the strike zone Murphy is dominant, hence the 137 K's in 134+ innings in '04.  The problem for Murphy has been consistency, particularly in the strike zone.  Murphy occasionally likes to nibble too much, and if he falls behind and hitters can sit on the fastball Murphy gets in trouble.

ETA:  Murphy has a real shot at the starting rotation in '05, particularly if (when) Randy Johnson gets dealt.  Expect the Diamondbacks to hold off on promoting Murphy until he either; A) has an incredible spring and forces the D'Backs to make him the #4 starter, or B) mid season when the Diamondbacks are already out of the race and there is little to no pressure on Murphy to produce.

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