To be called a highly regarded prospect for the Colorado Rockies can be a blessing and a curse. With the title comes a great deal of pressure to perform. When you don’t, the title can quickly go from wanted to heavy very, very quickly.
Such is the case with Tom Murphy, who was placed on waivers by the Colorado Rockies late Saturday night, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The 27-year-old Murphy carried with him so much potential and so much “what could be.” However, it never came to fruition in his limited opportunities with the Rockies.
In 196 career at-bats spanning four seasons, Murphy put together a .219/.271/.439 slash line. Last season was the year when he saw the most action with the Rockies, appearing in 39 games. However, among those games was an early August victory in Milwaukee where Murphy had a defensive sequence that was tough to watch. A catcher’s interference call, a mishandled third strike that allowed a runner to reach and another pitch that skipped by him nearly gave the Brewers a rally win.
The defensive lapses (and lack of production at the plate) were enough to have Murphy optioned back to Albuquerque shortly thereafter. It would be the last option the Rockies could use on him, something that would come back to play a big role in why Colorado placed him on waivers yesterday.
With Murphy out of options, the decision was this: Do you keep him and Chris Iannetta as your two catchers or is Tony Wolters and Iannetta the better duo? In the end, the versatility and defensive abilities of Wolters trumped Murphy’s potential.
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It’s been tough for Murphy with the Rockies. In 2017, that title of “highly regarded prospect” was supposedly finally going to pay off for Colorado, but a hairline fracture of his forearm in spring training kept him out of the Opening Day conversation.
When he finally did get the chance to appear in a game on June 15, he went 0-for-3 against the San Francisco Giants. It would be part of a 1-for-24 nightmare that was his final contribution that season.
This spring, while covering the Rockies, I had a chance to hear Murphy’s thoughts on his abilities as a catcher after he went 2-for-3 with four RBI in a March 7 win over the Chicago Cubs. He sounded like a man who knew Colorado had a big decision looming and that he may not fit into future plans with the franchise.
"“I think I’ve figured out who I was, behind the plate especially,” Murphy said. “I’m not a very traditional catcher in terms of set-up and stance. I’ve accepted that and realized who I am and how I’m going to play for the most part. I’ll make adjustments as necessary, but that’s how I feel comfortable. Physically, I’ve always felt ready, regardless of the injuries I’ve had. I can’t ever use that as an excuse. I think it’s more self-awareness.”"
Murphy will now see if the Rockies will work a trade for him over the next few days. If for some reason he clears waivers without another team showing interest, the Rockies can re-sign him and assign him to Triple-A. That, however, seems unlikely. It will be surprising if another team doesn’t take a chance on Murphy. The potential is there and perhaps it can be realized in another organization. Note: In fact, San Francisco picked him up on Monday morning.
This could well be the perfect scenario for someone who needs a fresh start. After all, the stars never seemed to align for Murphy and the Rockies. It happens sometimes with highly regarded prospects. Unfortunately for Colorado, in an area where they need offensive production (catcher), Murphy wasn’t able to reach the goals that both he and the Rockies were hoping would be attained.