If it weren’t for a torn meniscus in his left knee suffered in May, we probably would have been talking about Sean Murphy’s big league debut long before the rosters expanded on Sept. 1. His arrival in Oakland may have been delayed due to missing three months of action, but the A’s saw enough in his return to action to add him to the 40-man roster (He would have been added in the offseason anyway.).
Murphy, No. 3 on the A’s Top 30 and No. 43 on the overall Top 100, is one of the best all-around catching prospects in the game, a reason why he’s No. 4 on the Top 10 catching prospects list. He’s been known for his defense since his days at Wright State and there’s no question his catch-and-throw skills led to the A’s taking him in the third round of the 2016 Draft.
The A’s clearly thought he had the goods to become a big league regular and as he’s moved up the ladder, injuries notwithstanding, he’s improved his overall offensive game as well. Regardless of what role he settles into over the final month of the season, and more should the A’s nab a Wild Card spot, Murphy is generally thought of as the catcher of the very near future for this organization.
Currently, Oakland’s big league catchers, Josh Phegley and Chris Herrmann are hitting a combined .236 with a .671 OPS for the season. Thinking Murphy could outproduce either of them offensively doesn’t sound too outlandish, and he brings excellent defense to the table as well, so seeing the 24-year-old work his way into regular playing time behind the plate down the stretch is an entirely reasonable outcome. Here’s what tools Murphy brings to the table both at and behind the plate:
Hit: Murphy has become a much better hitter as he’s progressed, using a short right-handed stroke that has led to very good contact rates. He does not strike out much and he draws more than his fair share of walks.
Power: The consistent home run pop is just starting to show up and he was slugging .625 in Triple-A when he got the call. He was off to a hot start in April when he suffered the knee injury, then had a two-homer game in his first game back. Granted, he took advantage of the friendly confines in Las Vegas, and the Pacific Coast League in general, but there’s legitimate 20-homer power there, assuming he can stay healthy.
Run: While he’s not going to start stealing bases in the big leagues, Murphy runs well for a catcher, which should allow him to take the extra base when needed.
Arm: Murphy has one of the strongest arms of any catching prospect in the game and while basestealers had a little more success against him this year, he’s still thrown out 32.7 percent of baserunners attempting to steal.
Field: As mentioned above, Murphy is more athletic than many backstops, and his agility helps make him an outstanding blocker behind the plate. He works extremely well with pitchers and is graded very highly on his game-calling skills.