Yankees Prospect Profile: J.R. Murphy

Tom Szczerbowski

Can this catcher win the backup job from Cervelli and Romine?

Background:

J.R. Murphy was drafted by the Yankees in the second round of the 2009 draft. The right-handed catcher was born and raised in Bradenton, Florida and chose to sign with the Yankees instead of going to the University of Miami to play for the Hurricanes. Murphy spent 2010 in Low-A Charleston, hitting .255/.327/.376. His defensive abilities were called into question, as he allowed 13 passed balls and 11 errors in just 53 games. He began 2011 back in Charleston, where he got off to a great start hitting .297/.343/.457. This earned him a promotion to High-A Tampa, but he only played in 23 games before he fouled a ball off of his foot and missed the rest of the season. He split 2012 between Tampa and Trenton hitting .248/.316/.386. Murphy's caught stealing percentage has increased steadily, going from 23% in 2010 up to 32% in 2012.

2013 Results:

Murphy started 2013 in Trenton, where he hit .268/.352/.421 with six homers, a BABIP of .293, and a 116 wRC+ through 49 games. He was promoted to Triple-A Scranton in June, where he maintained his production and put up very similar stats, hitting .270/.342/.430 with six homers, .a 304 BABIP, and a 117 wRC+. Murphy allowed 13 passed balls, and 86 stolen bases, with a caught stealing percentage of 37% through 105 games played in the minors.

On September 1st, he received his first call up from the Yankees when the roster expanded. While acknowledging the small sample size, Murphy did not have a good September. Through 16 games and 27 plate appearances, he hit just .154/.185/.192, with a -4 wRC+ (ouch) and only one RBI, which came during one of the games against the Astros. During the 70 2/3 innings that he caught for the Yankees, he allowed three stolen bases, but caught three on the basepaths without allowing any passed balls.

2014 Outlook:

Thanks to the signing of Brian McCann, the Yankees have a ton of catchers competing for the backup job. Murphy is among those, though he'd have to have a great performance to steal the job from Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine, who have an advantage in that they have quite a bit more major league experience than him. Murphy would need to show that he's a much better hitter than he was during September. If Cervelli wins the backup spot, then Romine and Murphy are both looking at returning to Triple-A, where one of the two would start and one of the two could be moved to another position. There had been talk of Murphy moving to third at some point if his defense did not improve, and he has played 14 games there. That talk seems to have quieted down however, seeing as how he's only played one game at third since 2012. One of the two could also be traded, although Murphy probably has more of an upside in that regard since he's younger. At least there will be plenty of options at catcher if the injury bug of 2013 strikes again.

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