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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Chris Murphy looks to show his 2019 breakout was real

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The southpaw was a surprise in his pro debut, and now he’s trying to carry that over to full-season ball.

Chris Murphy
Kelly O’Connor

We are getting very close to the end of this year’s top prospect list, with just three names remaining to be added to our top 20, including the one we’ll discuss this morning. That name who comes in for our latest spot just barely squeaked by in an extremely close three-person vote, and also made it three straight pitchers to make the list. That would be Chris Murphy, grabbing just 23 percent of the vote to come in at number 18 on our list.

Murphy was a bit of an interesting case coming out of high school in that he wasn’t drafted, but he was a relatively hot commodity among Division I programs. He ended up playing his college ball at the University of San Diego, where he consistently showed off big-time stuff but also control issues. It was the latter that led to him falling in the draft following a junior year in which he pitched to a 3.50 ERA with over 12 strikeouts per nine innings. Despite those numbers, Boston was able to grab him in the sixth round, and that would immediately pay off.

The Red Sox had identified some issues with Murphy in college and were able to get them to be applied immediately, a credit to their development and scouting staffs as well as to the pitcher himself, who has been open to any tweaks. Some mechanical adjustments as well as a concerted effort to be more aggressive when ahead in counts led to him pretty immediately looking like a steal for Boston in that 2019 draft.

Of course, it has only been one year in which he has pitched as a professional, and he didn’t even pitch all that much in that year, so any firm declaration of him as a steal is certainly premature at this point. That said, the southpaw did look good in his stay at Lowell that summer. He made 10 starts totaling 33 13 innings, pitching to an impressive 1.08 ERA with 34 strikeouts and, most strikingly, only seven walks. He would have been pegged for his full-season debut last summer with a chance to be put on a fast track had he shown that control was for real, but as we all know everyone’s development was stalled for a year.

In terms of scouting, Murphy has two pitches on which he can definitely rely. The fastball is his best pitch, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s and getting up to 95 when he needs it to. This was the pitch he rode most often to his success at San Diego. To go with the heat, he also throws a changeup that is still a bit inconsistent but has the potential to be a very useful pitch at the major-league level, albeit not quite a plus offering. One of the big keys for him to stick in the rotation will be the development of a breaking ball. He throws both a curveball and a slider, but right now both are below average. The former has a better chance of sticking.

Along with adding a legitimate third pitch to the repertoire, the biggest key for Murphy, who turns 23 in June, will be showing the control that made him so intriguing in 2019 is here to stay. While we shouldn’t take away the development, and there are those in the organization who are buyers in part because of how much the pitcher has bought into the tweaks in approach and mechanics, it also needs to be pointed out that the now-nonexistent New York-Penn League has some raw hitters. You still need to throw strikes, but also a college pitcher can carve up hitters in that league with even mediocre command. If Murphy can keep limiting his walks, he can move relatively quickly and stick as a back-end starter. If he can’t, he’s likely destined for the bullpen.

He’ll begin his quest to prove he can indeed stick in a rotation in 2021, likely getting the push up to High-A Greenville. Like I said, I could see a fast track for him, but he also hasn’t pitched in organized games since his short outings in the late-summer of 2019. Because of that, I would imagine he’ll have to force his hand for any kind of quick promotion, with the tentative plan likely being him spending most if not all of the season in Greenville. But Murphy will have the chance to change that, and if the 2019 adjustments stick, he will do just that.

Here is our list so far:

  1. Triston Casas
  2. Jeter Downs
  3. Bryan Mata
  4. Jarren Duran
  5. Gilberto Jimenez
  6. Noah Song
  7. Bobby Dalbec
  8. Tanner Houck
  9. Connor Seabold
  10. Aldo Ramirez
  11. Thad Ward
  12. Jay Groome
  13. Nick Yorke
  14. Ronaldo Hernández
  15. Blaze Jordan
  16. Brayan Bello
  17. Eduard Bazardo
  18. Chris Murphy

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number 19 prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...