Tom Murphy’s season was truly a tale of two halves. Through June, Murphy looked to have lost not just his ability to hit but also all of the prospect shine that once had him as one of the top catching prospects in the game. Once the calendar flipped over to July, Murphy started crushing the baseball and never stopped.
Murphy was part of the September roster expansion last season, and acquitted himself quite well in limited duty. In 11 games he hit .257/.333/.543 and three home runs. Murphy seemed prime to be half of the Rockies catching duo this season alongside Nick Hundley.
The biggest debate when Murphy reported for spring training was whether or not the Rockies would hold him in Triple-A long enough to gain the extra year of service time. Unfortunately, Murphy had a horrible spring training and was hitting .095 when he was assigned back to minor league camp halfway through spring training. At the time, it appeared that Dustin Garneau would hold down the backup spot until Murphy had re-established his bat in Triple-A and the Rockies had gained the extra year of service time.
Baseball is weird though, and two things happened that last year at this time no one would have seen coming. First, Murphy would spend the first two months of the season trying to figure out which end of the bat one hits with. In May and June combined, Murphy hit .208 with an equally miserable .227 on-base percentage. Sadly, that probably doesn’t even tell how bad it was, as he struck out 53 times while walking only four time during that time frame. Combined with Tony Wolters’ surprise emergence as the Rockies’ catcher of the future, and it looked like Murphy’s future with the Rockies might be over.
When Murphy flipped his calendar over to July, he must have flipped a magical switch along with it, because one of the hottest stretches of baseball ever witnessed in the Rockies minor league history was about to begin. For the entire month of July, Murphy hit .540/.586/1.079, and no that is not a typo, his slugging percentage was over a thousand for an entire month. In 17 games, Murphy accumulated 16 extra-base hits including eight home runs.
Things slowed down a bit in August, however, but Murphy still put together a rather impressive .391/.430/.690 line. Equally important was Murphy’s much improved 12 walks to 23 strike out ratio for the months of July and August. The latter two months also did wonders for his overall line as he finished his Triple-A season with an impressive batting line of .327/.361/.647.
Murphy received his call up at the beginning of September, and the step up in pitching did little to tame his raw power. As part of a three-man catching rotation, Murphy still hit five home runs and slugged .659. His overall line of .273/.347/.659, as well as improved receiving skills from the year before, re-established him as part of the Rockies’ catching future.
Murphy appears positioned to partner with Wolters and provide the Rockies an excellent combination of right and left-handed catchers. If he can continue to improve on his receiving skills while Wolters improves his offensive skills, the Rockies are going to be in a good place behind the plate for a long time.