I had the privilege of watching John Ryan Murphy in Triple-A Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre in 2013. I saw a young kid with a smooth stroke who thrived under pressure. Murphy ended up driving in both the tying run and eventually the winning run in extras. The best part of that final at-bat was that Murphy was not fazed, he went up to the plate just as confident as he had in every at-bat prior. It became evident why the New York Yankees used a second-round pick on the now 23-year old Murphy in 2009. The Baseball America scouting report lists Murphy as a high upside player and the report back in 2008 went as follows.
"“Murphy’s bat attracts most of the attention, as he has a short, sharp righthanded swing that generates good bat speed and plate coverage. Scouts grade his hit tool ahead of his power, though he’s expected to produce average power with wood. He’s also athletic, having made a shift from outfield (and occasionally third base) to catcher. He’s shown he’s more than capable of handling catcher, showing plus arm strength, solid receiving ability and a quick transfer. The Miami recruit has intelligence and makeup needed for the position, as well, and had hit his way into supplemental round consideration.”-Baseball America"
Murphy saw his first crack at the big leagues in 2014 when he appeared in 32 games and saw 85 plate appearances in that time. He put up a .284/.318/.370 slash line and had one home run with nine RBI’s. Murphy demonstrated his upside and ability at the plate well enough to where all signs point to him being the 2015 back-up catcher. Heading in to the off-season, the Yankees only had four spots for catchers (two in the MLB and two in Triple-A). Brian McCann has the starting position locked up in the majors and Gary Sanchez will be the starter in Triple-A. That left Austin Romine, Murphy, and Franciso Cervelli fighting for a spot. The Yankees made a tough choice and shipped the oldest and the most expensive, Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Justin Wilson. It wasn’t a bad thing as Cervelli arguably had the most value so the Yanks cashed in on their chip, but for fans it was hard to see the loyal, and scrappy Cervlli go.
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This move also demonstrated the faith that the Yankees displayed in Murphy. He outplayed Romine last season and when the rosters expanded in September, he received the call-up as the third catcher over Romine. It is possible that the Yankees will gradually lessen McCann’s workload as the season goes on. Murphy will see more innings especially if he makes the most of his time in such a scenario.
He will also be given the chance in the favorable match-up against left-handed pitchers. So, to say at least the Yankees are giving him a large chance to succeed, and prove he is the future of the organization behind the plate. In theory he is being groomed to replace McCann after his deal expires.
He can certainly learn a lot from McCann’s great game calling and approach at the plate. However, if Murphy is not the answer, the Yankee’s organization has plenty of talent stocked behind the plate. I think this season will be a coming out party for Murphy and, while I don’t think he will be a super star, I think we will see a consistent player develop in front of us. The only downside that might hinder Murphy’s rise to the Bronx? He has options remaining, while Romine does not. If the Yankees don’t keep Romine on the big league roster when the team breaks camp, they stand the chance of losing him for almost nothing in return.