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Top 50 Jays Prospects, Jays Journal Edition: #19 Griffin Murphy

This guy may very well have the best Left Handed arm in the system….actually, if he’s not, let me know who is because I want to know! Here he is at #19….

#19: Griffin Robert Murphy

Left Handed Pitcher / 20 years old / 6’4″ 205 lbs

image courtesy of mopupduty.com

Born: January 16th 1991, in Highland California

Bats Right   Throws Left

High School Team: Redlands East Valley

College: NA – had been committed to the University of San Diego before signing with the Jays

Drafted: in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, 61st overall

Signed: for $800,000

Quick Facts:

  • Was arguably the consensus top left-handed prep arm in the ’10 draft.
  • Apparently, his father Dennis (a painter-contractor who owns his business) got him ready for Minor League traveling by forcing him to travel to baseball showcases and tournaments on his own. He had to organize the entire trip from the time he was a sophomore onwards, something that has apparently helped make him more mature and ready for the next step.
  • Noted as already having a very high pitch IQ and feel for his age and experience level.
  • Struck out a season high 12 hitters against Yucaipa.
  • Made BA’s 3rd team for the 2010 High School All-America Teams and was rated by them as the top Southpaw going into the draft.
  • His stock in the 2010 draft increased throughout the pre-draft time mainly due to his increase in velocity, going from averaging 87-89 MPH on his fastball in 2009 to 90-92 MPH in 2010, hitting 93 MPH on occasion.
  • Finally, he proves himself to be a family man with great family values, as he stated that he wants a “wife and a good, nice family. I want to be happy in whatever I pursue.”

Stats:

  • As a HS Senior: 15 GP/ 11-1 / 1.35 ERA / 73 IP / 46 Hits All. / 20 BB / 104 Ks
  • You can get a list of his game-by-game performances here, courtesy of maxpreps.com

Interviews/Videos:

  • Video from his MLB Draft report video here.
  • A video and brief analysis of his stuff (pre-2010 experience) from baseball beginnings can be found here.

Extra Information and previous experience:

  • As noted here by Dave Perkin of BA, he pitched in front of 50 scouts while facing a very good team and their “ace” Austin Reed (Addison Reed‘s brother). He pitched 6 scoreless innings and got 6 Ks in the process. Perkin called it a nolo contendere (basically means that it was no contest).

I heard more about Griffin Murphy, who just recently celebrated his 20th birthday, and how Jays fans were going to fall in love with him in 2011 than any other drafted pitcher in the 2010 draft – and that’s saying a lot when so many pitchers went before him! Still, being a prep pitcher and having so little time spent as a top draft prospect (he turned it on right before the draft to boost his stock), we were forced to be cautious with his ranking with the hope that he’ll be as advertised in 2011.

My favorite Griffin Murphy quote I have come across came before the 2010 draft, when he answered a question about scouting interest by stating that:

“Teams like the Yankees, Devil Rays, Blue Jays and the Red Sox have shown a little more,” and “They want to know who they’re drafting, what kind of character you have, where you live, see your family.”

Ok, let me get this right, 80% of the AL East were heavily into drafting Griffin Murphy, the top lefty prep in the draft, and the Jays landed him? That sounds like a feel great story to me!

Just as is the case with Jenkins at #29, Griffin could make a leap into the top 10-15 Jays prospects next season if he puts up the kind of numbers we expect to see from him in 2011. He’s yet another product of Southern California that will attempt to prove himself right out of High School, following others such as Colorado’s Tyler Matzek who was the top prep lefty in the 2009 draft. Although Murphy was handed the same kind of accolade for the 2010 draft in terms of being the top lefty, it is believed by some scouts that he lacks the ceiling of a true #1 pitcher and therefore is heading a more lackluster prep class from the ’10 draft. Still, everything is proven on the mound, and Murphy has bettered himself so much before the draft that I wouldn’t put anything by him.

I wanted to get a feel for how Murphy may progress, so I attempted to match his pitching style to other lefties. After watching guys like Tom Glavine and Tyler Matzek, amongst many others, I really couldn’t get anyone on video who throws with the same arm speed. I wouldn’t call his motion violent, but it is definitely fast and not as smooth as others. You can see what I mean by watching the 2 videos linked above and comparing them with this one of Tyler Matzek. I’m almost positive that the Jays staff will attempt to slow his motion down some in order to make it smoother, easier to repeat, and even more accurate than it already is. If you want to read about how important command is to a pitcher, I recommend this great Tom Glavine article. There’s a reason he won more than 300 games in MLB, and none of it has to do with hitting the mid-90s on the radar gun.

With the Tom Glavine thought already in mind, here’s the bread and butter of Murphy’s success as a pitcher: command. It’s not going be in the Glavine control category, but he can do some magical things with his fastball. The guys over at Mop up Duty provide a rating of 50 to his fastball command and movement on the 20-80 scouting scale with room for improvement. That fact that he’s a pitcher coming out of HS tells us that he’ll probably wind up in the 55 to 70 zone depending on how much he improves it with coaching and more strength. All that I’ve heard so far about his fastball is that if he needs to run it in, he runs it in. If he needs to run it away, away it goes. Need it up and in? No problem, up and in it goes. He just hits his spots with his fastball consistently and now has enough velocity on it to set hitters up for his off speed stuff.

Speaking of off speed stuff, Murphy’s best off speed pitch thus far is a curve that apparently grades out at 50+ and makes it an above-average pitch. He  effectively throws his curve somewhere between 74 and 76 MPH, however, Murphy does have some command issues with this pitch in that he has been known to leave it up in the zone at times. That’s one of the major reasons it isn’t graded higher than it already is, so it bodes well for the future of this pitch so long as he can become more consistent with it. As we all know, he may get away with leaving a pitch up in the minors here and there, but he certainly won’t be as lucky at the higher levels.

This is where the smoother delivery and more consistently predictable release point come in. If your arm speed is as fast as Murphy’s, you can have a tendency of changing the release point slightly each time you throw off speed stuff, leading to some big knocks when left up. Mistakes down or away may not hurt as much initially, but they can still lead to favorable hitter counts, or walks if the hitters are patient and have keen eyes.

Along with his curve, Murphy also has a work-in-progress change up, but what prep pitcher doesn’t? Murphy’s is rated above what most prep pitchers have coming out of HS, so it’s still above where it should be, which is great for his potential as a front of the line starter. Overall, he still hasn’t thrown his change up enough to command it as he should. It’s hard to say whether his change up is what will decide his fate as a starter entirely, because his fastball does act like 2 above average pitches due to the command he has with it and his fearlessness in throwing it inside or away. Such command and aggressiveness allows him to hit his spots against both LHB and RHB and therefore makes him more effective as a starter, even without a great change up. Still, he’ll want to get it graded as at least average at a minimum so that hitters won’t be able to sit on his fastballs or curve and to wait for a mistake to be made.

Murphy has the build, strength, and stamina to remain a starter and to become a workhorse in an MLB rotation. The  example listed above, where he threw under pressure in front of 50 scouts and performed extremely well, shows his coolness under pressure and allows for thoughts of his progress leading to the #2 ceiling when it’s combined with such great fastball command. As his HS Coach James Cordes so aptly stated:

“As the stakes go up in a big-time game, his demeanor seems to calm”

That another big plus for Murphy, what happens between the ears. Nobody can sit there with a radar gun or a camera and tell you how a pitcher handles pressure from pitch to pitch, and from game to game. Murphy’s ability to handle pressure seems to be well above-average at this point, and thus makes him more likely to succeed as he climbs the ladder to the majors.

If fans, coaches, and scouts are correct and Murphy can continue to build on the momentum he had heading into the 2010 draft, we can expect tremendous things from him in 2011 and beyond. The Jays could use a top level LHP in the system with so many RHPs in it, so his success would go a long way to making a future Jays rotation more balanced by giving it a different look. When you consider that Murphy already has 2 pitches that have the potential to be above-average, his entire makeup, and the fact that he’s a lefty, you have to believe that he’s going to make it to The Show one way or another. He’s a little bit of a safer bet to do so than fellow Jays prospect Adonis Cardona since he’s a better known commodity, which is why we have slotted him slightly higher on this ranking list.

Since he did not pitch for the Jays after signing late (something I will never understand), I expect the Jays will be cautious in his innings pitched in 2011 and that could have him begin the season later as a result, most likely in June.

Expected 2011 Team: GCL Blue Jays or Vancouver Canadians

Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: #2 Starter, perhaps a #1 if he can somehow get his change up to be average or above average and become more consistent with all pitches

The #2/1 starter ceiling is debatable, but any time you get a lefty who has the control that Murphy has, there’s reason to be optimistic that such lofty heights can be reached. I believe that many remained skeptical of his skills, despite being the top prep lefty on the board, mainly because his ascension to that spot was so close to the draft, as opposed to Tyler Matzek who was in that spot well before the draft.

- MG

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  • Mylegacy

    When we drafted this guy I was over the moon.

    With Asher, Sanchez and Snydergrasswhatzhisname all high ceiling guys taken ahead of him I just couldn’t believe we’d then get the best HS lefty in the draft. At 6’4″ 205 he’s already a specimen – wonder what he’s gonna look like when he fills out.

    IF only we’d taken OFer Josh Sale instead of McDweeb for our first pick – then I’d have been 100% happy. BUT – what a SMOKIN’ draft it was. IF we get another 7 high potential guys this next draft – wow – we are going to be seriously loaded for a decade!

  • George Norman

    What’s amazing about this list is that just about everybody on it so far is in their teens and early 20′s, and most have yet to reach AA ball. I am also impressed by the number of league wide honours these kids have won, because that shows the quality of the talent. What Alex the Great means by a “Freight Train” is that as these players rise through the system, he has the machinery in place to keep stuffing new, high value prospects in at the bottom, where they are the cheapest. The Halladay and Marcum trades will make themselves felt in 2011/12, with the 2010 draft starting to show shortly thereafter. After that, the train is rolling.

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