Murphy Stands Out In SoCal

LOS ANGELES — In a distinct and somewhat dispiriting contrast to recent years, the Southern California high school draft class of 2010 offers scant quality in lefthanded pitching—with one notable exception.

SoCal lefties from recent drafts include Tyler Matzek and Tyler Skaggs in 2009; Mike Montgomery, Edgar Olmos and John Lamb in 2008, and the recently-retired Danny Duffy in 2007.

No doubt the premier lefty in the area in 2010 is Griffin Murphy, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Redlands East Valley High in Mentone, Calif. In front of an attentive crowd of 50 scouts on Thursday, March 25, Murphy and REV faced off against Rancho Cucamonga High and their ace, righthander Austin Reed.

It was, to borrow a legal phrase, nolo contendere. Murphy breezed through six scoreless innings, efficiently mowing down the Rancho hitters while notching six strikeouts.

Murphy, whose strong, mature frame resembles that of Joe Saunders, delivers a fastball which ranges from 89-92 mph as well as a sweeping 75 mph curveball. Like a yo-yo master, Murphy can “do tricks” with his fastball: run it in, run it away, sink it, turn it over.

The young lefty’s curve needs a bit of refining. His bender displays excellent sweep and two-plane movement, but it too often winds up at a hitter’s waist, a no-no against advanced hitters. Sharp, savvy and a good learner, Murphy should have no problem improving his curve by spinning it down in the strike zone more often, thereby adding depth.

Unlike the horror show exhibited by most high school pitchers, Murphy’s mechanics are relatively solid. He loads up well on his back hip and does a fine job of accelerating his arm at his release point. On the negative side, Murphy may benefit from slowing his motion down a shade to let everything catch up. Also, for a youngster with such strong thighs he may benefit from more leg drive in his delivery finish.

Murphy’s talent—and the scarcity of lefthanded pitching in this year’s crop—figure to make him prized commodity in the June draft. Scouts I spoke to Thursday speculated that Murphy may be snatched in the first supplemental or second round.

Austin Reed is the younger brother of San Diego State star Addison Reed. There is no evading the fact that Austin had a poor outing Thursday. Tall, strong and physically imposing at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Reed offers an 89-91 mph fastball, a 78 change, and a 77 slurve-type breaking ball. He also tosses an 85-87 mph “mystery pitch,” the substance of which had bemused scouts speculating all game long.

Betrayed by his defense and his command, Reed was hit hard and frequently, exiting early as REV won, 8-0. No doubt blessed with a powerful arm and an athletic frame, Reed sabotages himself with drastically poor mechanics. For Reed to reach his vast potential, he’ll need a complete technical makeover in pro ball or at a D-1 school, which is his most likely destination after graduation.

Such is not the case with Murphy. Advanced and polished, Murphy possesses two characteristics that are magic on day one of the draft: he’s a lefthander with quality stuff.