Missing the truncated chaos of 2020 puts Tom Murphy off the radar in early drafts for 2021. However, with power potential being affected by a “deadened” baseball, getting a catcher with power upside and a clear path to playing time may represent a bargain in the “Great Northwest."

Before losing his 2020 season to a broken bone in his foot, Murphy's one season removed from launching 18 home runs in only 260 at-bats (one every 14.44). Can a player breakout after leaving Colorado? It remains to be seen but Murphy showed some signs of growth in 2019. He appeared in 76 games with 32 runs, 40 RBI, two stolen bases and a respectable .273/.324/.535 slash line. Murphy recorded a 6.8 walk percentage with a 31 percent strikeout rate and the third best isolated power (.262) among catchers with at least 250 plate appearances. It’s strange to see Murphy fueled by a .340 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) but this almost aligns with his career .331 BABIP.

Trying to discern how much of the gains displayed by Murphy will carry over to 2021 will determine his ceiling for fantasy. There’s no way to correlate this information, but digest his second half numbers versus what Mitch Garver did after the All-Star break in 2018:

Tom Murphy 2019 2H - 40 games, 19 runs, nine home runs, 21 RBI; .277/.346/.532 with a 17.2 line drive percentage, 43.4 fly ball rate, 9.6 walk percentage, 26.9 strikeout percent, .255 isolated power

Mitch Garver 2018 2H - 39 games, 19 runs, three home runs, 32 RBI; .293/.340/.474 with a 18.5 line drive percentage, 41.7 fly ball rate, 6.9 walk percentage, 18.1 strikeout percent, .181 isolated power

Knowing how Garver broke out in 2019, it’s silly to assume a similar type of season for Murphy after a long layoff, but the power looks legit. According to Statcast, Murphy recorded 174 batted ball events with 19 barrels (10.9 percent), a 90.6 MPH average exit velocity and an 18.9 degree average launch angle. Here’s his spray chart from 2019:

His expected numbers do not forecast gains in terms of hitting for average. Murphy finished with an expected batting average of .218 with an expected slugging of .440 despite a 44.8 hard hit percentage. Take note of Murphy’s improved zone contact rate despite swinging at fewer pitches in the strike zone. He also cut his chase rate, swing percentage and whiff percent using Statcast numbers. Ignoring these numbers will be a mistake and here’s Murphy’s zone profile:

On Fangraphs, Murphy owned a line drive percentage of 19 with a 34.5 ground ball rate, 46.6 fly ball percent and 22.2 home run per fly ball percentage. Murphy did pull the ball in over half of his batted ball data with a 37.9 percent hard hit rate. He cut his swinging strike percentage to 13.1 percent, improved his contact rate to 70.9 and his Z-Contact (in the strike zone) to 83.7 percent. 

Seattle will monitor Murphy's workload to insure health. In 2019, only nine catchers finished with at least 400 at-bats. Here's his projection sets after missing 2020:

Due to the fungibility of the position, taking a chance on a player like Murphy makes perfect sense. Especially if a team insulates its batting average. Murphy could be a poor man's Gary Sánchez or if he hits .235 or better, a capable provider at a reduced price point being overlooked due to his absence last season.

Breakouts come in many forms, Murphy’s always owned the power upside, but if he can hit his career average with solid run production, he’s a catcher who could produce a top-15 type season without paying full retail.

Statistical Credits:



THE BAT and THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty

ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen


ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborksi