It’s easy to focus on the potential exodus of free agents that could leave the Oakland A’s this offseason. Liam Hendriks has signed with the Chicago White Sox, Robbie Grossman joined the Detroit Tigers and Mike Minor inked a deal with the Kansas City Royals.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of time before Marcus Semien and Tommy La Stella join new clubs as well. Not to mention key veteran relievers like Yusmeiro Petit and Joakim Soria, who remain unsigned.
But A’s fans should be stoked about the future of catcher Sean Murphy, who probably won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
He made his debut in May 2019 before getting a September call-up later that year and playing in 19 games, making his MLB audition for the front office. The A’s starting catcher job was all his for 2020 and he proved to be one of the team’s most productive players by the end of the season.
The hulking, right-handed hitting catcher didn’t have the most eye-popping rookie campaign when you look at the surface numbers. He slashed .233/.364/.457 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 43 games, finishing fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. Take a closer look at his stats for September and the postseason, however, and you can see evidence of Murphy’s maturation at the plate.
Murphy produced a .277/.424/.638 slash line in September with five dingers and nine RBIs while reaching base in all 16 contests he played. It’s also worth noting he walked 12 times while striking out 13, showing impressive plate discipline for a rookie.
The catcher carried his momentum into the postseason and led the team with a .375 batting average (3-for-8) in the Wild Card series win against the White Sox, including a two-run homer in the Game 3 clincher. Murphy also possesses a powerful arm, which led to a .286 caught-stealing percentage (6-of-21) to rank him third among all qualifying catchers last season.
Unfortunately for Murphy, the 2020 campaign came to a close just as he appeared to be figuring things out. Even with the team’s playoff run, last year’s 67 contests would only take the A’s to early June in a regular 162-game season.
He spent most of his rookie year batting in the No. 8 or No. 9 hole, but crept up as high as sixth. Don’t be surprised if he’s mixed in with Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Khris Davis in the heart of the team’s order going forward.
With more experience under his belt and another spring training to develop, expect big things from the 26-year-old catcher in 2021.