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Rockies prospect rankings: No. 10 Tom Murphy has time, space to establish a career in Denver

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The Colorado Rockies are hopefully looking at their catcher of the future in Tom Murphy, who just cracks the top ten prospects among an incredibly strong and deep farm system talent pool.

Tom Murphy found a role in Denver last year. Can he repeat it?
Tom Murphy found a role in Denver last year. Can he repeat it?
Harry How/Getty Images

After a lost season in 2014 caused by a shoulder injury that limited him to just 27 games and 109 in Double-A, Tommy Murphy regained some of his prospect shine in 2015 with a return to his previous form. That form had seen him tear up Low-A pitching in 2013 (174 wRC+ in 341 plate appearances) to the extent that Colorado jumped him over High-A ball completely for a cameo in Double-A in 2013.

As a result of the injuries in 2014, in which he still produced a 113 wRC+, the 24-year-old righty catcher began his third year on a Double-A roster to open the 2015 season, but this time he stayed pretty healthy and he ended the season in the big leagues.

And what an interesting year it was for Murphy, who played across three professional levels and also for Team USA. In Double-A New Britain to begin the year, Murphy hit .249/.320/.468 (126 wRC+) with 31 extra base hits in 294 plate appearances against pitchers who were slightly older than him.

Murphy then took a detour from the minor leagues to serve as a catcher on Team USA in the Pan-American Games, where his squad earned a silver medal. Upon his return, Murphy was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque, where in 136 plate appearances Murphy had a slug-heavy .271/.301/.535 (113 wRC+) line with 18 more extra base hits.

Then season-ending injuries to Rockies catchers Nick Hundley and Michael McKenry paved the way for Murphy's big league debut in September. In a 39 plate appearance sample over 11 games of action, Murphy showed off his prodigious power, swatting three of his nine big league hits over the fence and finishing with a .257/.333/.543 line (116 wRC+). That was worth 0.2 rWAR - which is more value than the vast majority of prospects ever provide their team.

In their midseason prospect update (prior to the promotion), MLB.com rated Murphy 12th among Rockies prospects:

[Murphy] is healthy again and still has all the skills to be a solid big league catcher. Built like a tank, Murphy might be the most physically impressive player in the Rockies' system. Very strong, lean and cut, he looks the part of a big league backstop with power. He's more power over bat right now as he does need to refine his approach. That would allow him to tap into his power more consistently, and he does have the ability to hit the ball out to all fields. Behind the plate, he has a strong arm and does a good job receiving and working with pitchers. He has the natural leadership skills teams want from a catcher.

Murphy is looking to get back on track after a lost season. Assuming health, he has the chance to be a power-hitting big league regular backstop in the near future.

I am worried about his plate discipline (career 25.6% K rate and 10% walk rate), but at least Murphy has the pop to make pitchers pay for their mistakes. Murphy is clearly the catching prospect the Rockies believe to be their future behind the plate, given that he has been the primary starter at every minor league level.

There are some prospect gurus (such as MLB.com) that rate Dom Nunez ahead of Murphy on the catching totem pole, but in this case I think the higher floor and power potential combined with the makeup give Murphy the edge in Colorado's eyes. Your mileage may vary. I believe that Murphy will become a big league regular behind the dish (or at least a very good backup), so I placed him 9th on my ballot this time around.

As it is, Murphy is a good bet to be a piece Colorado relies on in 2016 at the major league level for all or part of the season (though he might start down in Triple-A to get some regular playing time). Indeed, had injuries not halted his progress in 2014, I believe Murphy would have been in the Show for much of 2015 instead of a September cameo.

There really isn't a whole lot in the way of Murphy plying his trade at Coors Field long-term either, since Garneau doesn't profile as a regular and because the Rockies will likely part ways with Hundley after 2016 when his contract comes up (or trade him earlier). Nunez is a little ways behind Murphy, so he should have plenty of time to establish himself at the big league level.

I keep saying this with many of these profiles, but the fact that a player with Murphy's potential is sitting (legitimately) at the bottom of the top 10, with multiple guys below him that are top 10 in most systems, is quite the endorsement of Colorado's current organizational talent and depth.