A's Excited About Sean Murphy's Growth
OAKLAND—Growing up, Sean Murphy was just too small for most sports. He could never do much in football or basketball, so he spent most of his time working hard to become a decent catcher. Every team needs catchers, even if they are undersized.
He entered his junior year at Centerville High in Ohio at 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds, then a growth spurt began. He added five inches in a year, and hit .537 to earn all-state honors for a team that finished 24-2. Wright State coach Greg Lovelady invited him to walk on to the team, and Murphy responded not just by earning the starting job, but by being named the Horizon League Freshman-of-the-Year.
Three years later, Murphy had grown from the runt of the team to a premier prospect, and the A’s grabbed him in the third round of the 2016 draft.
When Murphy reports to big-league camp as a non-roster invitee, he will stand 6-4 and weigh in at 235 pounds, a substantial and unusual growth spurt for late-teen and early 20s years.
"I still don’t grow any facial hair,” the 22-year-old Murphy said. "I don’t have to shave. I feel like I’m just coming into my body now. I was awkward in college.”
Most boys experience that awkwardness during their first years of high school. For Murphy, it came in college while he was earning three straight all-conference selections. "I’m hoping this continues to go in this direction,” he said.
All this makes for a very intriguing prospect, and the A’s are clearly excited. "He can really throw, and he’s not a bad receiver,” said A’s special advisor Grady Fuson. "He’s got a ton of power and strength to work with. The first thing that jumps out at you is the arm strength. I haven’t seen a ball come out of a catcher’s arm like that since Pudge Rodriguez or Miguel Olivo. He’s at at top of the grading arm chart. I joked that we need to re-invent the grading charts for him.”
A’s area scout Rich Sparks signed Murphy, who made a big impression with his work and improvement at Instructs. "He’s still developing and acquiring his baseball instincts,” Fuson said. "That’s what we look for.”
Because of the late body development, it is impossible to project Murphy as a hitter. He has shown power in his swing, but will he also develop consistent contact as his coordination catches up to his growth spurt? Only time will tell.
Murphy’s father Mike also experienced a late growth, adding eight inches in his late teens when he was a walk-on with Manhattan College in New York. He was drafted by the Indians in the 18th round in 1983 and reached Triple-A.
The younger Murphy is only two semesters away from a degree in economics, and carried a 3.7 GPA through his studies. Now he will focus on improving his game.
"Everything,” Murphy said when asked where he wanted to improve. "I want to use the tools I have to make myself more successful.”
Catchers take time to develop, and Murphy will be a most interesting player to watch.
• Neil Avent was selected as the 2016 Dick Bogard Scout of the Year. His signees include Sean Doolittle, Chad Pinder and a 32nd-round pick named Ryan Dull who excelled at the big-league level last year. Avent scouts in the Carolinas and Virginia.
• Scouting director Eric Kubota announced that the organization has added three area scouts. Former Phillies scout Steve Cohen, former Dayton State assistant Chris Reilly and Dillon Tung, who had worked with the Rays before joining Oakland.
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— Casey Tefertiller is a writer based in Oakland