Counting down from 30, the Jays Journal has your top 30 Blue Jays prospects this year, including who we’ve ranked at #29, Joey Murray.
Name: Joey Murray
Position: Pitcher Age: 23
Height: 6’2” Weight: 195 lbs
Throws: Right Bats: Right
Acquired: 8th Round Pick by the Blue Jays in 2018
Back in 2018, the Blue Jays were surprised to find that right-hander Joey Murray was still available in the eighth round of the June amateur draft, and they quickly snapped him up. The Ohio native had just finished his third season pitching for Kent State in the NCAA, and was ready to make the transition to professional baseball after a successful collegiate career.
The Blue Jays managed to get him on a mound for a couple of appearances in 2018 after his college season was over, but it wasn’t until 2019 that they really got a first-hand look at the talented young man. He was pretty successful too, posting decent results in Low-A with the Lansing Lugnuts before he dominated across 12 appearances in High-A, posting a 1.71 ERA and a 0.937 WHIP across 63 innings. That earned him another promotion to Double-A, and he had an admirable showing there across eight starts and nine appearances as well.
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In all it was a successful first full season of professional baseball for Murray, and look for him to return to Double-A to continue to work on his craft. If he keeps progressing at this rate, he might be in the big leagues a lot sooner than many folks expect.
Murray is one of those prospects that could get lost if all you were doing was looking at the stat sheets. After all, he only throws his fastball around 90 miles per hours, and in today’s MLB game that’s not something that jumps off the page. However, a newer statistic in the game certainly works in Murray’s favour, as he has a particularly high spin-rate on his heater, and that’s helped him develop a very effective pitch despite the lack of velocity.
I’m not going to try to explain how it works exactly, but Murray’s fastball has been called an “invisiball” by many folks around the game, as the high spin-rate makes it more difficult for batters to track the pitch. Think back to Marco Estrada, and how despite only throwing in the high-80’s at times, he would throw high fastballs by big league hitters with regularity.
Murray managed to do that quite a bit in 2019, posting 169 strikeouts over 137.1 innings, against 49 walks. Despite the lack of big velocity, the offering was the foundation for his success last year, and he’ll look to continue to develop the go-to pitch as he progresses.
It’s not just a fastball that makes Murray an intriguing prospect, as he’s capable of throwing four different pitches. He has a classic mix of a fastball, curveball, slider, and a change-up, and there are encouraging signs in his breaking balls already.
The secondary offerings are considered to be a little behind his fastball potential, but should show enough value to be MLB calibre pitches by the time he arrives at the highest level. He doesn’t have a particularly weak secondary offering either, and that four-pitch arsenal will help him as he works towards being a big league starter.
If you have a look at baseballsavant.com, they have both his curveball and his slider rated as a 50, with that ‘invisiball’ fastball as a 55. They also give Murray’s change-up a rating of 45, his control at 50, and an overall value of 40 on a scale of 80.
Does Murray project to be a future star? Not necessarily, but he’s also the type of arm that could have sneaky value. After progressing through three levels of the minor leagues last season, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he finishes the 2020 campaign in Triple-A, and pushes for a big league job sometime next season. He just moved up to #28 on MLBpipeline.com’s top 30 list, and Joey Murray comes in at #29 here at Jays Journal.