J.R. Murphy, C:
JR Murphy was selected out of the Pendleton school in the second round of the 2009 draft. Murphy was selected as a bat first catcher. However he has progressed nicely behind the plate and is now considered an average or better catcher. With the McCann signing, Murphy has become one of the Yankees best trade chips, but it is entirely possible that they hold on to him and let his value grow in AAA.
2011 SALL stats (63 gms) BA/OBP/SLG/WOBA/WRC+ .297/.343/.457/.357/117
2011 FSL stats (23 gms) .259/.270/.365/.284/70
2012 FSL stats (67 gms) .257/.322/.374/.324/99
2012 EAS stats (43 gms) .231/.306/.408/.319/94
2013 EAS stats (49 gms) .268/.352/.421/.353/116
2013 INTL stats (59 gms) .270/.342/.430/.350/117
2013 MLB stats (16 gms) .154/.185/.192/.171/-4
After missing his junior year of high school with a knee injury, Murphy entered the 2009 as a bit of a mystery. However, he impressed scouts at various showcases right before the draft. Murphy was a part of the well regarded IMG Academy, and he won a MVP award for each tournament his team participated in (4). Because of this, his stock was relatively high coming into the draft. Baseball America called him the 12th best prospect in the state of Florida and the 95th best prospect overall, and Keith Law rated him as the 88th best prospect for the 2009 draft.
Murphy was selected as a catcher with the 76th overall pick. The Yankees were able to break his commitment to the University of Miami by offering him a $1.25 million bonus. This major over-slot signing is very similar to what the team did with Greg Bird, as they were both drafted as bat first catchers. However Murphy was thought to be more athletic at the time of the draft and didn't have to deal with the injuries that Bird had. Because of this, Murphy was able to concentrate on becoming a good defensive catcher.
Not only did Murphy have to learn to be a good catcher, but because of the other good catching prospects in the system, he had to learn how to play third base as well. 2012 was the first year that he got to really be a full time catcher. For most of his career he has had to battle Yankee prospects like Gary Sanchez, and Kyle Higashioka.This may have slowed down his progress a bit. But after five seasons in the Yankees' system, scouts agreed that the Yankees succeeded at making him a real catcher.
By the end of the 2012 season Murphy established himself as a top 15 prospect in the Yankees system. The reason that he wasn't a top ten prospect was that he had never simultaneity had a good offensive and defensive year. Since Murphy was so focused on becoming a better defender his offensive numbers have never really reached his potential.
That was until 2013 where he hit well at every minor league level. Murphy had a 372. WOBA once park factors are calculated. With this performance it's no surprise that he jumped 11 spots in BA's rankings. The performance also led to him being ranked 18th in BA's top 20 Eastern League prospect list.
Murphy doesn't really have one strong tool, but instead is a very well-rounded prospect. Murphy has nice bat that produces line drive power to all fields. He also has enough power to hit 12 or so homeruns a year. His defensive game currently has several strengths. Murphy is very good at throwing out runners, gunning down 48% of attempted runners in AA and AAA. However he still has room to improve, as he allows too many passed balls. Like most catchers Murphy is a below average runner and will only get slower now that he is catching more.
Early on his career Murphy was projected to have a similar overall skill-set to Todd Ziele, but it now appears his glove may be better than that. Murphy ceiling is of a catcher who can hit .278 and get 10-12 homeruns a year.
Since he has a good arm and calls a good game he should be able to become an above average catcher. Especially now that he is on the 40 man roster and will be invited to spring training. At spring training he will be able to learn how to frame pitches from Tony Pena, who has had a positive effect on every catcher he has ever worked with.
If he's still a Yankee next year Murphy should begin the Year at AAA. He will split time with Austin Romine at that level. Considering Romine's and Francisco Cervelli's injury history he should make the big league club at some point. The Yankees may also look to trade Murphy for a prospect, though prospect for prospect trades are rare. Murphy would be a very good backup catcher in the big leagues and it may be in the Yankees best interest to keep him.