by Ray Kuhn
In looking at the catcher position, either you are in or you are out. If paying market value for a Top 5 catcher isn’t how you choose to build your team, and it’s not my preferred strategy, there are options to wait on. Waiting on filling your catcher slot, or slots, means the position is deep, it just means that there isn’t much differentiation once you get out of the top tier. There are obviously multiple tiers and a clear hierarchy, but things even out pretty quickly once you move past the Top 10. When sitting down to compile my catcher rankings, I often find more cons than pros and, in most cases, upside is limited.
In leagues that start two catchers, it is difficult to punt both slots but you also want the most bang for your buck. The key is identifying those few players that you feel a little more comfortable about and that provide some upside. For me, Tom Murphy is one of those players.
Where you draft Murphy, and this is key when searching for value, will likely be lower than where he finishes the season. The reason for that is his power, plain and simple.
Initially, I was toying with highlighting Austin Hedges or Cameron Rupp in this space, and they both could very likely find their way onto some of teams this spring. Hedges has a clear path to the starting job after San Diego traded Derek Norrisn, but how much stock do we want to put in the 21 home runs he hit in Triple-A last season when he previously was known mostly for his glove? Rupp also has power, but he struggles to make contact and has Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp behind him.
That brings us back to Murphy, who is currently the 15th catcher coming off the board in NFBC drafts with an ADP of 232 (translates to the 16th round in 15 team leagues). It is worth noting that there is some buzz beginning to surround Murphy as he has come off the board with the 159th overall pick in at least one draft.
While Hedges’ power came out of nowhere, Murphy has consistently shown it throughout his professional career. Also impressive is that his home run totals have not suffered as he has progressed through Colorado’s system, while also hitting for average (excluding 2014 when he played just 27 games):
Murphy got a brief taste of the major leagues in 2015 when he hit three home runs in 11 games, before getting a little longer look last season. In 44 AB he went deep five times and drove in 13 while hitting .273.
The sample size is small, and no one would be in objection to Murphy hitting .273 moving forward, but he struggled to make contact (56%) and also has two seasons over 100 strikeouts in the minor leagues. That means while it might be difficult to count on him to hit much more than .250 this season, while 20 home runs and 65 RBI are well within reach (and quite possibly his floor). Based on his power metrics, per Baseball HQ, you have to like the potential in Coors Field with a Power Index 181 last season and an Expected Power Index of 225, when 100 is average.
This doesn’t mean I’m rushing to draft Murphy at 159 or as a Top 10 catcher, but there is some potential. Between the power and his ADP, there is more than enough reason to target him.
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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings: