2013 MLB Statistics: 27 PA, .154/.185/.192
2013 Triple-A Statistics: 257 PA, .270/.342/.430, 6 HR
2013 Double-A Statistics: 211 PA, .268/.352/.421, 6 HR
2014 Contract Status: Pre-Arbitration Eligible
J.R. Murphy brought some hope to the catching position faster than people expected. Having Chris Stewart as your everyday catcher is going to cause people to panic that the organization doesn't have anyone better. There was Austin Romine, but he was even worse for half the year. Murphy jumped three levels in 2013 to get himself into the majors and, as Brian Cashman said, put himself in line to compete for a job in 2014.
Before this year, Murphy, thought to be an offensive-first catcher, hadn't put up above-average numbers since his time in Low-A Charleston in 2011 when he had a 117 wRC+ over 277 plate appearances. Now in Double-A to begin the year, his bat finally woke up and his defense improved greatly. He hit .268/.352/.421 with six home runs and through out an amazing 48% of would-be base stealers. He got called up to Triple-A midseason and basically hit at the exact same rate. He hit 268/.352/.421 with another six home runs, though he only through out 30% of all base stealers.
He finally got called up to the big leagues in September and became the permanent backup catcher after Romine missed the end of the season with a concussion. He collected his first two hits in his first two games, got his first RBI, but only hit .154/.185/.192 in 27 plate appearances. Murphy threw out three of the six total base runners he faced and ended up starting five games behind the plate, most of them coming when the playoffs were out of reach. He also had the honor of catching Mariano Rivera's last game ever, cementing himself into Yankee lore, or at least Yankee trivia.
While Murphy didn't hit particularly well in his time with the team, I don't think it really hurts or helps his chances of grabbing a roster spot in spring training. He isn't a top prospect busting down the door, but he has the potential to provide solid work from behind the plate and better-than-Stewart offense. Everyone is waiting for Gary Sanchez to come up, but Murphy could at least help bridge the gap until that time.
There's no guarantee that the Yankees will sign a legitimate catcher in 2014, so if they come into camp with Chris Stewart, Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli, and J.R. Murphy, Murphy and Romine should get the nod, if they want anyone with some upside. Because of Murphy's rise in 2013, it creates a logjam of catching depth. If they decide to go with Stewart and Cervelli again, where do Romine and Murphy go? It seems at least one of the four will need to be released and one will have to play in Triple-A.
Don't expect J.R. Murphy to light the world on fire because then you're just setting yourself up for disappointment. What you can hope for his some solid all around work that is probably better than Romine and could actually have a future on the team.
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