46. Taylor Murphy - Outfielder
Born: 11/03/1992 - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 200 - Bats: Left - Throws: Right
History: Murphy was selected by the Indians in the 18th round of the 2014 Draft out of the University of Pacific. He was originally drafted out of high school by the Padres in the 40th round of the 2011 Draft. He has some Major League bloodlines as his cousin Geoff Blum played 14 years in the big leagues. Last season he finished 11th in the Carolina League in on-base percentage (354), 8th in slugging percentage (.446), 8th in OPS (.799) and tied for 8th in home runs (12).
Offense: Murphy brings an interesting skillset offensively and is the one thing the Indians were most intrigued about with him coming out of the draft. While he is not someone who puts up big numbers, he is consistent with his performance, puts up professional quality at bats, has a plan that he takes to the plate and sticks to and has proven to be an on-base machine. There is some bat-to-ball ability and the potential to be solid average there, but what really sticks out with him is his very advanced approach. He’s a very disciplined, patient hitter who has a good eye and works deep into counts to wait for a fastball he can drive or be satisfied with the value a walk provides. He is big and physical so provides a bit of a presence in the left-handed batter’s box and shows average power to all fields. He displays some good, natural bat speed and has some good strength which allows him to pound the ball into the gaps, and really has some good pull-side power that flashes above average.
Defense: Murphy has spent a lot of time as an outfielder and third baseman as a professional, and while he showed some good skills and development at third base in 2015 the Indians moved him back to his more natural position in the outfield last season. He is a solid average defensive right fielder with good athleticism for his size, good first step quickness and a very strong and accurate plus throwing arm. His size, arm and bat fit well into the mold of a prototypical right fielder, though he can play left field and also play a little center field if needed. Really, there is a lot of versatility to play anywhere on the infield and outfield corners, which is something that creates some value for him as a potential corner utility player who can play first base, third base, left field and right field in the big leagues if he doesn’t fit in an everyday role.
Speed & Intangibles: Murphy doesn’t have much speed and grades out as fringy average at best, though his athleticism helps it play up some and he is a heady, solid baserunner. He really competes against pitchers and always has a plan of attack when he steps into the box against them. He’s a plus makeup guy who carries a terrific attitude, a willingness to work hard, some good leadership qualities and amazing consistency in his routines and preparations. He is the consummate gamer who brings his lunch pail to work every day and just plays hard, hustles nonstop, never wants to be taken out of the lineup and finds a way to help his team win.
Focus: Murphy has long been a very patient hitter and has put up some very good walk rates with an 11.9 BB% in 2014 at Short-A Mahoning Valley, a 13.6 BB% in 2015 at Low-A Lake County and last year with a 13.3 BB% at High-A Lynchburg and 11.1 BB% at Double-A Akron. The Indians challenged him last season to be more aggressive earlier in the count and it paid off with some increased power as he saw his .107 isolated power in 2014 and .111 ISO in 2015 jump to a .173 ISO last season in his 120 combined games between Lynchburg and Akron. The strikeouts also went up, going from the 16.9 K% (2014) and 20.2 K% (2015) to the 26.8 K% he had last season at Lynchburg and Akron. The Indians are fine with that modest increase in strikeouts as he was able to impact the ball more all while maintaining his walk rate – all of which led to overall improved offensive production even with a rise in strikeouts. The Indians also worked with him in the efficiency of how he loads and fires his lower half by being more connected, and he showed some big time growth in that area last season. They believe that such an improvement will help him hit balls hard from pole to pole and more consistently tap into his serious pull-side power. The Indians want to see him continue to refine that approach this season and really take it to the next level at the Double-A level, a level he had some trouble at as he was commonly fooled by offspeed pitches and was caught swinging out front in his limited time at Akron. Also, to avoid being pigeon-holed as a platoon bat, he is going to need to hit left-handed pitchers better in the upper levels. He only hit .226 with a .711 OPS off them last year at Lynchburg and was limited to a .167 average and .583 OPS against them at Akron. The hope is his success off them in the lower levels at Mahoning Valley in 2014 (.325/.867) and Lake County in 2015 (.287/.767) brings him back in line so that he can be viewed as a true everyday player. He also needs to show a little more of a willingness to work the other way and he tends to be his own worst critic as he is too hard on himself, so the Indians want him to relax a little more and just trust his swing and approach.
Future: Murphy is a name that keeps moving up the ranks and is someone to keep an eye on this season. His renaissance as a prospect has been captivating considering how poorly he played in college as a freshman (.232 AVG) and sophomore (.211). He saw a significant change to his body and performance as a junior (.315 AVG) as he added some good weight and strength and really focused in on his game, and used that to get drafted and has since really made something of his career and built some very good momentum as a prospect. Last season he capped off another strong season mostly at the High-A level where some big bats there overshadowed how good he really did. Though he is an older prospect who is already 24 years old, he is still someone who is interesting because of his solid profile with the bat and glove. While he may not be a star in the making, he has the potential to be a solid complementary player at the Major League level and has the mold of a solid right fielder in the making - just the Indians need to work on getting him more consistent both offensively and defensively. He should open the season at Double-A Akron.
Ranking History: #65 (2016), #78 (2015)