John Ryan Murphy came to spring training with an outside chance of making the major league club but knew it was more likely he would spend the season in the minors. He had less experience in the majors than the other candidates for the backup catcher job, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine. He even had a different name, changing what he wanted to be called from J.R. Murphy to John Ryan Murphy. But the 22-year-old year worked hard at his craft and showed a lot of improvement and promise in camp. He was sent to Triple-A to be the everyday catcher in Scranton after Cervelli won the job. He stayed in Scranton when Romine was the first catcher called to the show. But eventually his turn would come when Cervelli severally injured his hamstring and needed to go on the 60-day DL.
Since being called up he has hit .348 with a home run and five RBI, including a two-hit, three-RBI performance on Wednesday night in Anaheim. He has also played solid defensively. Scouts have long raved about his ‘soft hands.’ He has all the tools necessary to be big league catcher and is still young enough that he can still develop his other tools and learn to be a better hitter as well. But he has been overshadowed for much of his minor league career by other Yankee catching prospects such as Jesus Montero, Romine and Gary Sanchez. But now in his first extended showcase in the Bronx he is proving that he can develop into an everyday big league receiver.
Murphy has worked as Vidal Nuno‘s personal catcher lately as he has been behind the plate for the pitcher’s last four outings. However, he has shown a knack for working with the entire staff and calling a game. Both Manager Joe Girardi and Bench Coach Tony Pena, both former big league catchers, have heaped praise upon the youngster’s natural ability and his “coachability.” Murphy has shown both that he has an idea about what he is doing, and that he will take instruction and advice on how to do it better.
“He’s got a feel,’’ said Joe Girardi. “He’s a student of the game.’’
Of course, we need to remember that Murphy is a backup and starter Brian McCann, who signed a five deal in the off-season, is in no real danger of losing his job despite his slow start to the season. Prospect Gary Sanchez at Double-A is still regarded as having a much higher ceiling than Murphy as well. However, Murphy is only a year older than Sanchez and three years younger than Romine and is gaining priceless major league experience while they toil in the minors. Murphy should continue to develop and could be an interesting trade piece at the deadline or allow the Yankees the option to trade Cervelli or Romine. In the meantime, Yankee fans can enjoy watching the kid develop both at the plate and behind it.