The Twins started the 2016 season with the newly-acquired John Ryan Murphy as their backup catcher. Most presumed that Murphy, who the Twins got from the Yankees for outfielder Aaron Hicks, would be the catcher of the future. Unfortunately, Murphy’s season didn’t exactly go as planned, as he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in the majors and was demoted to triple-A by May 6th.
Murphy was hitting just .075 (ouch) with a slugging percentage of .100 (oof) at the time of his demotion, and he didn’t do much better in triple-A. After being demoted, Murphy hit just .154 with only one extra-base hit for the Red Wings in the month of May. He did not hit his first home run in the Twins organization until June. Overall, from May through July, Murphy hit just .209 with that one home run and 12 doubles. That’s, um, bad.
So is Murphy just a total bust for the Twins? Maybe, but there are still reasons to be hopeful.
First, it is worth noting, that as the backup catcher, Murphy actually only appeared in 11 games for the Twins before his demotion. That’s a pretty small sample size, but since the Twins were going nowhere, Murphy still had options, and he could get more regular playing time in triple-A, the move made sense. Except, when Murphy was sent to Triple-A, he struggled there too—but only at first.
In August, Murphy suddenly turned it up at the plate, hitting .328 with two home runs and fewer strikeouts than he had any of the three previous months. It was perhaps his best single month in triple-A since 2012. The hot streak led to the Twins recalling him on Saturday for an extended look in the majors.
And it’s not like he hasn’t ever had success in the majors—he hit .277/.327/.406 in 67 games for the Yankees in 2015, which isn’t too bad for a 24 year old catcher. He’s struggled this year, but has been playing his best baseball since coming to the Twins organization as of late. After a long, hard season, could Murphy finally be turning the corner?
What Murphy does for the Twins in September will likely have a big impact on his future with the organization. Kurt Suzuki will be a free agent at the end of the year, and the Twins will have to decide if they need to
get the damn band back together and sign A.J. Pierzynski sign a free agent catcher or try to go with what they have. If Murphy continues to look dead at the plate, the decision will be clear, but if Murphy can get things going... the Twins still probably need to get a free agent catcher. The difference will just be what kinda of free agent catcher they should go for—a short-term veteran, or some kind of longer-term solution.