by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The consensus has been that Tom Murphy is going to be the starting catcher for the Colorado Rockies, after his flourish late in 2016 (5 HR in 44 AB) and the offseason departure of Nick Hundley. However, are things really so cut and dry? There’s another piece to the puzzle, and it could have a negative impact on Murphy’s fantasy outlook:
The left-handed hitter had 230 PA in the Majors last season, hitting .259 with 3 HR and 30 RBI. Obviously those are uninspiring numbers, and he’s a career .258 hitter with 15 HR over 1,648 AB in the minors. While he posted a 23.0% strikeout rate it’s not that he was chasing outside the strike zone (29.5% O-Swing%), though he did swing and miss a bit too much (Whiff%):
- Hard – 8.03%
- Breaking – 16.27%
- Offspeed – 17.76%
Part of that may be due to his transition from middle infielder to catcher, though there isn’t much upside in the bat. He is viewed as a significantly better defender than Murphy, however, and for a team nurturing young starters and already has ample offense, that’s something that can’t be overlooked. He may earn a platoon or more, simply on the strength of his defense.
No one is going to question his power, with 24 HR over 370 PA between Triple-A and the Majors last season. However he’s not known for his defensive chops, and strikeouts could be viewed as an issue:
- Double-A (2015, 294 PA) – 27.2%
- Triple-A (2015, 136 PA) – 31.6%
- Triple-A (2016, 321 PA) – 24.3%
Over the past two seasons he’s posted a 33.0% strikeout rate over 88 PA in the Majors. Obviously it’s a small sample size, but the minor league numbers back it up. Regardless of the power, if you can’t make contact you aren’t going to hit home runs. That’s a risk that we can’t ignore, especially given the defensive questions. It will make it easier for the Rockies to look towards Wolters, if Murphy is struggling to a sub-.250 average.
There’s a lot to like with Murphy, if he gets the job, considering how shallow the catching position is. However, given the nature of Colorado’s rotation, who the superior defender is and the state of the lineup, it’s easy to envision Wolters at the least splitting time (and possibly getting the lead role). While he’s not going to have much fantasy appeal, it does significantly limit the upside of Murphy and turns him strictly into a second catcher and not someone we’d want to depend on.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, Brooks Baseball
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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:
|Starting Pitcher||#1-20 |02/27/17|