FARM REPORT by Gary Jacobs
The Next Big Thing?
(Boston Globe Staff Photo / Barry Chin)
JUNE 9, 2006 | PAWTUCKET - When David Murphy, the Red Sox' first pick of the 2003 draft, stepped to the plate at McCoy Stadium on May 26 for his first at-bat with the Pawtucket Red Sox, he swung at the first pitch he saw. The swing was tentative and weak, and he missed an inside and low fastball by a foot.
He deposited the next pitch into the visitor's bullpen for a home run.
During his next at-bat he came jaw-droppingly close to repeating the feat: he indeed hit the ball over the fence but a well-timed leap by Matt Kata of the Norfolk Tides prevented Murphy from collecting two home runs in his first two at bats. And oh, by the way, he roped a double to center field in his third AB.
You didn't need to be Earl Weaver or Kreskin to foresee a bright future for the lanky lefty.
Since then Murphy has posted numbers that would indicate that somewhere there's an express ticket to The Show with his name on it. In 13 games with the PawSox he leads the team in batting average (.327 at the start of Friday night's game), OBP (.411), slugging percentage (.592) and OPS (1.003).
Murphy seems to be one of those players who gets better the higher up in the organization he goes. His stats in Pawtucket all far exceed those from his time with the Portland Seadogs- he's gained 54 points of average, 96 points of OBP and 156 points on his SLG. By all accounts he enjoys his time in Pawtucket – and he’s certainly putting it to good use.
“I’m just trying to learn right now,” he said after Friday’s game. “I’m a step up from where I was last year, and the beginning of this year. Obviously the competition’s better up here, so I’m trying to have good AB’s and pick up as much as I can from pitchers and improve myself as a hitter.”
His manager, PawSox skipper Ron Johnson, sees nothing but upside.
“He’s swinging the bat well, he’s doing a nice job in the outfield – he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s competing well – he’s [never] overmatched. What I’ve noticed, too, is that since he’s come up here, I bet he’s faced about 75% left handed pitchers. He gives you a real good at-bat against lefties. I’m very pleased with him.”
Murphy plays center field for the PawSox, and with the injury to Wily Mo Pena, could provide the Big Club with a capable fourth outfield choice and a left-handed pinch-hitter off the bench with some pop -- both immediate needs for the Landsdowne St. Nine.
So why don't they call him up? Youth might be a factor. Murphy won’t turn 25 until after the season is over and this is only his third year in professional baseball. He spent much of the 2004 season on the DL, only appearing in 73 games that season hitting only .261. The powers-that-be may want him to get another few hundred AB’s under his belt before they punch his ticket to the Hub of the Baseball Universe. Murphy also has a tendency to swing at bad pitches. He needs to infuse his game with a dollop more patience.
Does Johnson see him being called up this year?
“I don’t know – we have a nice assortment of [recent callups] up there right now. But it’s really up to those guys [Theo Epstein, Sox GM and his staff]. But he is showing why he was drafted where he was drafted. He has a lot of tools.”