It’s tough to be a promising prospect at Salt River Fields in The Year of Butler and Gray. It’s been so long since the Rockies have had not one but TWO highly-touted, nationally-recognized pitching prospects in the system that we can hardly think of anything else. As far as we’re concerned, the season doesn’t even start until these two are called up. For my part, I’m headed to Scottsdale the last week of March, and if I don’t see both these guys pitch at least two innings each, I want my money back. It’s an exciting time to be a Rockies fan.
The problem with all this hype is that it leaves out guys like Tom Murphy, not on anybody’s top prospect list, but still someone worth watching. Murphy was drafted in the 3rd round back in 2012 out of Buffalo, New York. He’s got decent offensive numbers (a .289 average in Single and Double-A last season, with 19 homers in just 80 games in Asheville). He profiles as a good top-of-the-order hitter, with the ability to make contact and steal bases. But the best part of Murphy is his defense. According to ScoutingBook.com, “Murphy is a standout defensive backstop with an above average arm (he shot down 42% of base stealers last season.) … He looks like a pretty sweet catcher of the future to us.” Better than what has been observed about Murphy is the attitude he has about himself. In an interview with Patrick Saunders, Murphy expressed pride in his ability to call games and said that he likes to know hitters’ tendencies. Now that’s a catcher!
What this could spell is death for Wilin Rosario. His power at the plate is unquestionable, but his ability to make progress on defense is highly questionable. In my mind, Rosario’s lack of any kind of skill in the field means he’s got a good future as a DH. Since the Rockies don’t have a DH, Rosario now looks like excellent trade bait. I don’t think he’s going anywhere anytime soon, but if Murphy continues to develop, and if his backstopping skills are what they appear to be, he could be the Rockies’ starting catcher within a couple of seasons. Something would have to give at that point.
In any case, Murphy is one to watch in spring training this year. He has the necessary tools to add a lot of value to the Rockies in the future, and his performance in Scottsdale will tell us a lot about when and how that might come about.