Former 14th round pick Steve Murphy had been a pleasant surprise through his first two professional seasons. The former Kansas State Wildcat won Northwest League MVP honors in his pro debut, as he batted .306 with 23 doubles and nine home runs. Murphy made the jump to High-A Bakersfield the next season and proved his '06 campaign was no fluke, batting .283 with 38 doubles and 19 home runs.
The 23-year-old moved up to Double-A Frisco in 2007 and experienced a season of ups-and-downs. Murphy hit .277 in 488 at-bats with the RoughRiders, but he hit just 11 home runs. The left fielder's biggest downfall was his plate discipline, as he walked only 28 times while racking up 103 punchouts.
Lone Star Dugout recently chatted with Murphy about his 2007 campaign and his plans for next season.
Jason Cole: What were your thoughts on your season with the Frisco RoughRiders?
Steve Murphy: I thought it was pretty good. It was my first time being at Double-A and I thought being able to get a spot as a starter was good for me and the program. I felt that I was going to hit a little more for power, I thought my power numbers were down a little bit. For average, .277 isn't too bad but I know I can do better. I think we made some strides as a team doing so well in the first half. We kind of fell off there at the end with some injuries and some guys moved up. It was a little disheartening doing so well in the first half and falling off in the second, but all in all I think I had a pretty good season.
Cole: Why did you feel your power was down this season?
Murphy: It was my first time at Double-A and it's tough when you face eight teams. You play the other three in your division thirty-something times and pitchers start to figure things out. I've actually been a big free swinging type hitter and I think I'm starting to come to realize that being a free swinger is not going to get you too far. I think being exposed as in swinging at first pitches and swinging at balls in the dirt, I think that's why my power numbers went down a little bit. I think the walk-to-strikeout ratio – when it becomes better – I think my power numbers go back up.
Cole: Is that something you're looking to work on starting with next year?
Murphy: That's the main thing I'm working on. I'm working on getting deeper into counts and finding a zone that I can work with. Like I said, I swung at a lot of first pitches and I think that's where my downfall was this year. But if I can get the walks to 70 instead of 20, I think my average goes up and my power goes up as well.
Cole: Did you work on your patience at all during this past season, or is that something you're going to start at the beginning of next year?
Murphy: It's something we worked on during the season. I think it got better during the second half, I think I hit a few more home runs. I felt a little bit more comfortable at the plate. But it started at the end of the season, carried over into the offseason, and I should be ready to go by next year.
Cole: When I talked to you around the midway point of the season, you said you were making an adjustment to get your legs back into your swing in hopes that it would give you more power. Is that something you kept working on throughout the year?
Murphy: During the turning point of the season I was standing up pretty straight. I went on a bit of a hitting streak, but I think that was just a quick fix. In the long haul it didn't really help. I think I talked to you and I started sitting down, crouching a little bit more in my stance. Wayne Kirby came in filling in for Scott [Coolbaugh] when he was gone and then Scott came back and they kind of had a meeting. They thought if I sat down more and used more of my legs, I'd hit the ball a little bit. It worked. It was later in the season so it was tough to see big results, but in the cages and things like that I felt I made great strides. I think using my legs will definitely help me next year.
Cole: How did you feel you improved as a defender this season?
Murphy: I thought I did pretty well. I think I made some errors that shouldn't be made any time, but I felt like I took better routes. I worked with Kirby and I felt better taking routes and getting to balls a lot easier. My throwing to bases improved I think. I could have probably used more assists than I had, but all in all I think my fielding was pretty solid.
Cole: A lot of times, people talk about adjustments you make to improve as a hitter. Do you make similar adjustments to improve in the field?
Murphy: Oh for sure. The routes I was taking weren't direct to the ball and a lot of it had to do with the stance I was starting off with before the pitch was even made. Little things like that I worked with when Kirby came in. Just being able to get to balls in the gap a lot easier. Taking away the gap from a hitter and then balls down the line, you really can't do anything about. This year I worked on taking balls away in the gap and then throwing to bases, like using your one hop instead of trying to get the ball there in the air. Working with the field, the different fields you play on. I definitely think there are some adjustments to be made during the season.
Cole: What are you doing to stay in playing shape over the offseason?
Murphy: I'm actually working with the Kansas State baseball team. I'm finishing up school here, this is my last semester and I've got a couple hours left. I'm going to finish up here and they're allowing me to use their facilities. They've got a great indoor facility and they've got a brand new field this year. I'm fortunate to be able to use their weight room, their facilities, and kind of work out with the team while I'm here. When it gets colder here, I'll move to the indoor. But I'll be in Arizona in January. I usually head down about a month early to take advantage of that Arizona weather and use the Rangers' facilities.
Cole: You have a pretty extensive history with Kansas State head coach Brad Hill. Are you working with him at all while you're in Kansas?
Murphy: Yeah. I'm getting to work with coach Hill and they've got a new coach – coach Burroughs – I just met him a couple of days ago. I've been able to use coach Hill as kind of a reference and a home base hitting coach. I keep in touch with Scott Coolbaugh and Wayne Kirby. The coaches for the Rangers make themselves pretty available even in the offseason. Obviously they can't be here in person, but you can call them and they really help you out. I've got access to a lot of great coaches that can help me out.
Cole: Have the Rangers given you an idea of their plan for you next season?
Murphy: From what I've heard and from what I've seen, I'm probably going to be starting off in Frisco again. It all depends, nobody knows. A lot of trades could be made or people get released, and things like that in the offseason. We have a lot of free agents in the outfield. I don't know. I'm hoping I go back to Frisco. I like the stadium and I like the fans, but we'll see. Oklahoma City would be great too.
Murphy looks to become more selective
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