SALT LAKE CITY—It’s now a week into February, and the Colorado Rockies still haven’t added a veteran catcher for their major league roster. This comes as a surprise to some, but it’s clear that at this point, the club is comfortable moving forward with a young catching tandem.
That, of course, is completely OK with Tom Murphy, who is likely a shoo-in to make his first Opening Day roster. Well, maybe.
“You don’t ever want to count your chickens before they hatch,” Murphy told Purple Row during a Rockies Caravan event last month. “But I plan to put myself in as good of a position as possible going into the spring. If I break camp, then it’s a dream come true.”
Murphy has certainly shown he’s ready. At the plate, the 25-year-old backstop followed a .327/.361/.647 Triple-A campaign by slugging .659 in 49 post-roster expansion big league plate appearances last year. Behind it, he made some of the strides the Rockies made clear they wanted to see from him.
Still, health remains a concern for Murphy, who has yet to play in more than 105 games in any professional season. Some of that, of course, has to do with the position he plays, but injuries—shoulder in 2014 and oblique in 2016, for example—have also mounted in seasons past. Murphy is working hard to make health a non-issue heading into his most important season to date.
“I always consider my physical preparation to be second to none,” Murphy said. “I’m pretty methodical with it and make sure to cover all ground. This year, I just took that to the next level to make sure that I’m physically capable of catching 162 if I need to.”
Fortunately, having a tandem parter in Tony Wolters who boasts such a different, yet usable, skill set will allow Murphy—if he’s named the No. 1 catcher—to take some days off, so 162 games won’t be necessary. And being surrounded by such a talented group should help ease any feeling of pressure for the rookie slugger. He’s seen that talent play out firsthand for years.
“Something you might have seen with us throughout the years is that whenever we were all on a team together and healthy, it was pretty much domination,” Murphy said of his time coming up through the minors with the likes of David Dahl, Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, and many other players who form the nucleus of the 2017 Rockies. “Eventually players would get move or somebody would get hurt to where we didn’t have that full squad together, but when we were, we had a tremendous amount of success.”
“That’s always the organization’s plan in the minor leagues,” Murphy continued. “To develop that culture and groom the players to have that kind of success at the major league level. I think you’re seeing that with us.”
The Rockies, led by that young talent, are projected by many to take another significant step forward in 2017. USA Today predicts a .500 finish. ZiPS projects enough WAR for a roughly 83-win team. Murphy’s vision, as well as that of the team, is to surpass those rosier expectations.
He feels the right pieces—and the right mindframe—are in place to do so.
“Our goal is to make it to the playoffs AND win the World Series,” Murphy firmly stated. “I feel good about saying that with a new manager coming in and making sure we’re all on the same page heading in to spring training.”
“There’s no complacency anymore.”