All Yankees’ fans have heard the same thing over and over again for the last few seasons. The Yankees’ farm system is barren. Their minor leagues have little talent that can succeed at the major league level. The Yankees’ “elite” prospects barely crack the Top 100 in baseball. Those statements always applied to every position except catcher.
The Yankees’ catching prospects, however, are supposed to be the cream of the crop. It all began with Jesus Montero, who not only became a bust at catcher at the major league level for Seattle, but is currently in the minors playing first base. Francisco Cervelli was another home grown prospect, however, PEDs and the inability to stay on the field due to injuries are slowly derailing his career. Austin Romine has yet to prove he can hit at the major league level and this season, he is barely hitting at the minor league level. And then there is the Yankees’ top prospect in the system, Gary Sanchez, whom the Yankees don’t want to rush to the big leagues.
What about J.R., excuse me, John Ryan Murphy? He was called up to the Yankees last week sans the hype that the Yankees’ catching prospects have gotten the last few years. He was called up briefly at the end of last season but didn’t make much of an impression. Murphy appeared in 16 games in 2013, but could only muster a .154 batting average and one RBI. This year is different.
Murphy was the hero of this past Saturday’s game against the Angels launching his first career home run and driving in three in the Yankees’ 4-3 victory. He also caught a quality game as the Yankees needed to use five relievers to defeat the Angels with all of their injuries and a suspension to their starting rotation. So who is John Ryan Murphy? Where has all of the hype been surrounding him?
Murphy grew up in Bradenton, Florida where at a young age, he literally became a student of the game. He attended the IMG Sports Academy, which was a school to learn baseball. “It’s kind of like a college schedule,’’ Murphy told the Daily News. “You have classes in the morning, you go to lunch, and then it’s baseball every afternoon.’’ The Academy attracts students from all over the world. Youngsters face the difficult decision of sacrificing a “normal” high school life to focus on their ultimate goal. For Murphy, the decision was easy. His mother worked for admissions with the Academy, so he was exposed to it at a very young age. By the time his parents gave him the choice of attending a regular high school or the Academy, it was a no-brainer. Murphy loved baseball and he wanted to major in it.
When Cervelli went down with an injury a little over a week ago, Murphy, who was hitting .192 with no home runs, got the call over other big name prospects like Romine and Sanchez. Why? For one, major league scouts have started to take notice. While some feel he may just be auditioning to become trade bait for a potential starting pitcher, most all agree that Murphy has the tools to succeed at the big league level. “Some team might see him as a guy who could start for them,’’ one anonymous scout told the Daily News. “He’s solid with the bat and behind the plate.’’
Yankees’ skipper, Joe Girardi, summed it up in simple terms: “He’s got a feel.” That “feel” is, at just 22 years of age, being able to read major league batters and calling the appropriate pitches. That “feel” may be the ability of getting into batter’s heads at the plate and doing little things that serve as a decoy to the hitter. That “feel” is providing the little things to the pitcher that help out in a big way.
Whatever the case is, Murphy will stick around the big leagues for some time. If the one scout is right, it may not be as a Yankee. Each day that Murphy plays and succeeds, however, he is making a case to the Yankees’ front office to stay. Maybe it’s time to move on from the hype and believe in John Ryan.