Finding comps for prospects: J.R. Murphy

Derek and I ranked catching prospect J.R. Murphy as our #4 prospect this offseason. Here’s what we had to say about him:

Like Sanchez, Murphy might be better served as a trade chip with McCann in tow. He didn’t hit much during his cup of coffee in the majors this season, but he thrived offensively at both Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. Murphy’s defense is well touted, too, increasing his value as trade bait.

Using only Murphy’s 2013 stat line, I compiled a list of comps — players who put up similar numbers (BB%, K%, and ISO) at a similar age. Since Murphy split 2013 between double-A Trenton and triple-A Scranton, I pulled half of his comps from the Eastern League and half from the International League.

This analysis cuts right to the bottom line — it considers what a player did in his most recent year and churns out a list of players who performed similarly. There are some obvious limitations to this approach. For one thing, it only considers a hitter’s offensive performance and completely ignores defensive position and ability, so some of the comps will have very different defensive profiles. Additionally, this analysis only considers 2013 stats and does not take into account a player’s performance from previous seasons. Finally, in no way does it take into account things like scouting reports, which provide insight into a player’s future performance. Still, this gives us some living, breathing examples of players with similar offensive track records and hopefully gives us an idea of some possible career trajectories.

For reference, a catcher with average defense who posts a 100 wRC+ is worth about 3 WAR over a full season — good enough to be a starter, but not a star. The more similar comps are at the top of the list:

Player PA’s Triple Slash wRC+
Chris Parmelee* 631 .246/.322/.395 99
Grady Sizemore* 4,047 .269/.357/.473 120
Yamaico Navarro* 199 .206/.258/.267 39
Matt Lawton 5,570 .267/.368/.417 107
Nick Castellanos* 18 .278/.278/.278 48
Ramon Vazquez 2,227 .254/.328/.350 82
Neil Walker* 2,252 .273/.339/.423 111
Yonder Alonso* 1,121 .279/.346/.395 108
Joe Crede 3,377 .254/.304/.444 90
Dayan Viciedo* 1,235 .264/.306/.432 98

*Active with at least a reasonable chance of  playing in the majors some time in the future

Nobody in this group is a catcher, but virtually every player’s offensive ability would translate to a solid big-leaguer at the catcher position. Navarro is really the only player who might be described as a complete bust, yet even he has put up solid minor league numbers over the past four seasons.  Players who have done what Murphy’s done in the high minors rarely fail at the major-league level. He may never develop into a star, with the Yankees or otherwise, but it’s hard to imagine Murphy not turning into a backup catcher, at the very least. The projection systems agree:


Ramon Hernandez: (96 wRC+)

Kurt Suzuki: (86 wRC+)

Omar Fuentes: ( career minor leaguer)

Phil Avlas: ( career minor leaguer)


Jonathan Lucroy: ( 106 wRC+)

Josh Donaldson: ( 127 wRC+)

Hank Conger: (85 wRC+)


Henry Blanco (64 wRC+)

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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