By Jeff Louderback
In the opener of what is projected to be season when he makes his Major League debut, Centerville High School graduate and former Wright State Raiders standout Sean Murphy scored the first run in Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators history on Thursday in the club’s 9-6 win over the El Paso Chihuahuas.
Highly regarded for his defensive work, Murphy had multiple key blocks on pitches in the dirt, including a few in the ninth inning when El Paso had runners on base.
Lightly recruited by colleges out of Centerville High School and undrafted by major league clubs, Murphy arrived at Wright State as a preferred walk-on. Fast forward six years and he is one of the premier catching prospects in baseball.
Murphy has grown from a 5-foot-9, 145-pound junior with the Elks to his current 6-foot-3, 232-pound stature. Athletic and agile behind the plate, many Major League scouts and officials believe he will be a long-term big leaguer based on his abilities behind the plate. If Murphy enhances his offensive production, he has a chance to become an elite-level catcher, those scouts and officials agree.
“When I was younger, I felt like I was always overlooked by guys,” Murphy explained. “I saw teammates and guys I played against getting recruiting offers and all this cool stuff.
“I ended up walking on, and shout-out to the guys at Wright State and the coaches over there for seeing what I could do and knowing I would eventually grow,” he added. “Once I grew, it came together.”
Murphy has thrown out 35.5 percent of potential base stealers over three minor league seasons. According to an MLB.com scouting report, Murphy “blocks and receives well and gets high marks for his game-calling and ability to work with pitchers. He also has one of the strongest arms in the minors, one that baserunners don’t test too often.”
About his bat, the report added, “He’s a threat at the plate as well, with a short swing from the right side of the plate to go with a high contact rate. He’s not afraid to draw walks and there could be 20-homer potential in the future.”
Murphy emerged as one of the best players in the storied history of Wright State baseball and was selected by the A’s in the third round of the 2016 draft. A broken hamate bone during his final season with the Raiders prevented him from being selected higher.
During his Wright State career, Murphy posted a slash line of .309/.407/.464 and was named to the All-Horizon League team two times. Yet he belted only 14 homers in three seasons, perhaps impacted by a broken hamate bone on both hands in college.
Last year, most of which was spent at Double-A Midland, Murphy batted .288 with eight home runs, 43 RBI, 27 doubles and a .850 OPS in 306 plate appearances.
The A’s are expected to contend in the American League West this season. They have opened with a 6-4 record. Veterans Josh Phegley and Nick Hundley currently compose Oakland’s backstop tandem. Chris Herrmann underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during spring training and is there is no timetable for his return. All three are ideally suited as backups.
Murphy is undoubtedly Oakland’s starting catcher of the future. It’s just a matter of when his Major League future begins.