Colorado Rockies Prospect Countdown – #7: Tom Murphy

Our Baseball America Top 10 countdown continues with the only catcher on the list, a guy who could end up being the Colorado Rockies starter behind the plate as soon as Opening Day.

#7: Tom Murphy

Position: Catcher
Bats/Throws: R/R
Age: 25 (April 3rd, 1991)
Height/Weight: 6’1″, 220 lbs
Highest Level Reached: MLB
Estimated Big League Arrival: N/A
One Sentence Summary: He’s probably never going to win a Gold Glove, but the Rockies won’t mind much if he keeps smashing the ball the way he has in the minor leagues.

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Tom Murphy around here. A third round pick from University at Buffalo in 2012, Murphy has gone from a largely unknown prospect to a candidate for the Rockies everyday catching spot in 2017.

Murphy tore up High A-Ball in 2013, earning a call-up to Tulsa for 20 games at the end of the year. A shoulder injury wiped out nearly all of Murphy’s 2014, delaying his growth for a season, but when he returned, he looked no worse for wear, as he blasted 20 home runs in just 394 at-bats between Double and Triple-A.

Murphy’s power earned him a brief promotion to the big leagues at the end of 2015, but he was sent back to the minors for most of the 2016 season. Murphy responded by hitting like a peak-era version of Albert Pujols, posting a .327 batting average while crushing a ridiculous 52 extra base hits (including 19 bombs) in just 303 at-bats.

Murphy was called back up to Denver once again to close out the 2016 season, and he continued to look terrific, batting .273 with five home runs in just 44 at-bats. More than a few Rockies fans expressed frustration that a Colorado team that wasn’t in contention continued to give playing time to Nick Hundley rather than getting a better look at what Murphy could do.

The biggest thing holding Murphy back right now is concern about his ability to handle a MLB pitching staff. Most scouts feel he’s a mediocre (at best) pitch receiver and blocker. However, Murphy has a decent arm that should allow him to keep base runners in check, and as FanGraphs once said about him, “he’s not fatally atrocious at any aspect of catching.”

Ultimately though, it’s not defense that’s going to make Murphy a big league player, it’s his bat. There are catchers in the major leagues right now that are worse defensive players than Murphy, and some of them don’t have the kind of power potential he does. If Murphy blasts 30 home runs in 2017 (not all that unrealistic if he gets the lion’s share of starts behind the plate for Colorado), the Rockies will be willing to put up with some minor defensive issues.

Of all the prospects on this countdown, Murphy is by far the oldest. He’ll be 26 years old just a few days into the 2017 season, an age where he won’t be considered a prospect for much longer. More than a few places have projected Tony Wolters as the Rockies starting catcher (including the depth chart on the Rockies website) this season, but Murphy has far more upside with the bat.

We don’t know for sure if Murphy will work out for the Rockies, and fans who remember being burned by Wilin Rosario may be skeptical about embracing another power-hitting catcher with defensive weaknesses. But I wrote it last August, and it’s more true than ever: It’s time for the Rockies to see what they have in Tom Murphy.

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