By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens
My favorite storyline is an athlete earning a shot at achieving their dreams with their hometown team, and Alex Murphy is a perfect example.
Photo: Baby Birdland
Murphy, a 2013 sixth round draft choice of the Orioles, played for the Frederick Keys this past season. He grew up just 15 minutes from Nymeo Field, home of the Keys, and enjoyed a successful 2017 season in front of friends and family.
Over a 90 game span, Murphy slashed .239/.332/.415/.747 with 11 home runs and 21 doubles. He went hitless just twice over the final 15 games of his season. His final July line ended at a strong .309 batting average and .371 on-base percentage.
Unfortunately, an injury and second stint on the disabled list ended his season on July 31st.
The Calvert Hall High School graduate had a blocked path in front of him as a catcher, selected in the same draft as Chance Sisco, Austin Wynns, and Jonah Heim (now with Tampa Bay). However, Murphy has now logged 105 games at first base over the last two years as he begins his transition to a new position. His career .990 fielding percentage (just 8 errors in 838 total chances) is impressive, albeit a small sample size.
The path to the majors could be a little less blocked at first base. The Orioles have a few minor league first basemen who could find themselves on different rosters come 2018 including; Aderlin Rodriguez and David Washington. This would leave only Ryan Ripken (bounce back year in Aberdeen), Joe Maloney (recently signed from Can-Am League), and Jomar Reyes (believed to be better suited for first rather than third) for Murphy to compete with.
There are a few items to be cautioned with when it comes to Murphy. The biggest is his durability. Murphy has appeared in more than 90 games in a season just once, with Delmarva in 2016. He also has a career strikeout rate of over 26%. Is there more room in the Orioles’ lineup for a high strikeout/hard hitting slugger?
Murphy does bring a lot of raw strength that led him to hit 27 home runs over his last 2 seasons. He will also be entering his sixth season in the organization at the young age of 23. As long as he continues to progress as he has and avoid the injury bug, the 2016 South Atlantic League all-star will develop into a serviceable first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles.
It will be interesting to see where Murphy begins 2018. I’m going to take a shot and say he will end up battling Joe Maloney for the starting first base job in Bowie. Regardless, he is one prospect that I look forward to seeing in person a lot more next year.
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