With the draft a little more than a month away it’s time to get a move on. Let’s jump back in to this year’s college catching prospects. Here’s what we’ve done so far:
Why I’ve spent so much time thinking/writing about such a weak position in this year’s draft is anybody’s guess, but I started this darn catching tournament thing and by gosh I’m going to finish it. It may take me weeks to do what a real writer would do in minutes, but…wait, I have no idea how to finish that thought. But…at least I’ve avoided the Swine Flu thus far? But…at least I’m the best looking baseball draft writer around (you should really see my smile, it makes man, woman, child, and Clooney all weak in the knees, all at once). But…at least I’ve put my time to good use when not writing – I mean, I must have watched this about 6,000 this past week alone. See, there really is no good way to finish that thought? It may have taken me weeks to ge through this simple task, but the end is finally in sight. The beginning of the end starts now. One more regional to go.
The final (maybe) installment of our college catching prospect tournament — yes, it has dragged on long enough that it no longer deserves highly coveted formal title capitalization status — is thankfully here. Let’s see what we’ll see…after the jump, of course.
1. Tony Sanchez
4. Tobias Streich
2. Carlos Ramirez
3. Jack Murphy
I’ve actually seen all four of these players in person – how do you like that? On the whole, I think this was the most even distribution of talent in a regional. A closer look at one of the three seed, Mr. Jack Murphy of Princeton. We’ll get to the other catchers (and find out who wins this thing) in a bit, but for now we’ll stick with the one man approach to make my already easy as pie life that much simpler. How a fella named Jack Murphy wound up at Princeton and not Harvard is beyond me, but we’ll try not to hold it against him in our evaluation…
Jack Murphy – C – Princeton – 2009/JR – Bats: Switch – Throws: Right – 6-4, 230
Murphy is a below the radar 2009 draft prospect who interests me greatly because he seems to have the formula for this year’s draft-eligible college hitters down pat: a couple of above-average tools with some semblance of a track record of success, but no overwhelming physical attributes that would carry him if all other aspects of his game failed, noticeable blips in performance that cause concerns about future production, and an overall lack of polish.
From a scouting perspective Murphy’s got a lot of obvious positives – good raw power, above-average defender, professional body, switch hitter, experience catching a ML-caliber arm (David Hale, who, incidentally, also experienced a bit of a draft year decline…hmm), extremely durable (caught all but 3 innings for the Tigers in 2008). From a performance perspective, well, things aren’t so rosy. Murphy wasn’t able to build on the momentum of his first two seasons at Princeton as his big raw power failed him early and often this spring (his slugging percentage dropped from.628 to .455 from his sophomore to junior seasons – not good). It’s not often a player in a soft college conference (sorry, Ivy League!) with such a ballyhooed scouting profile sees such a collapse in one area of his game. Then again, it’s not often a writer is hacky enough to end a sentence with parentheses and then have the gall to include a hyphen/dash thing to finish it all off either; sometimes weird things just happen. I can’t explain my subpar writing away, but I do wonder if Murphy had some kind of undiagnosed/unreported injury that serves as some kind of explanation of his power drop. For his sake, I hope so.
Besides the performance decline, there are other flaws to Murphy’s game that warrant mentioning. His arm strength is a subject of some debate, but few would consider it much better than slightly below average at the big league level. “Few would consider it much better than slightly below average” – now that’s a whole lot of vague qualifiers. Let’s clarify it by using unnecessarily simple language for no apparent reason other than I think it sounds funny in my head. What I would like to say about Murphy’s arm is simply this: his arm isn’t good, but scouts have mixed opinions when asked to specify how not good it actually is. If it’s really not good, we have a problem. If it’s only a little not good, then I think Murphy’s soft hands and above-average footwork will allow him to stay at the position professionally. From what I’ve seen, Murphy’s arm ranks closer to the latter (a little not good) rather than the former (really not good), so put me down in the “yes” ledger of the “Will he stick at catcher?” question. That’s a good thing for Murphy’s draft stock.
He also has a swing setup that is a bit too upright and rigid for my tastes. In addition, the way he drops his back elbow pre-swing is disconcerting – he’s got a little bit of that classic chicken wing thing going, but not in a good way. Perhaps these are all factors that play in to his decreased power, though it’s probably more likely I’m a no nothing know-it-all who is reading way too much into something that isn’t really there. I saw him play a bunch his first two seasons in person, but only on video this past year. To my untrained eye I saw a reworked swing that hasn’t worked all that well at the plate. I remember seeing a player with a far more pronounced knee bend in his setup and much quieter hands pre-swing. Whether you buy any of my reasons are up to you, but there is no denying Murphy’s power has vanished with little to no explanation. If a team can pinpoint where that power went, they may be able to find it and recapture whatever it was that worked so well for Murphy in 2008. If that happens, we may have yet another sleeper on our hands.
Final verdict on Jack Murphy – worth a flier in round ten or later because he has the upside of a good big league offensive-minded backup catcher