Owen Murphy was somewhat of a surprising first-round pick for the Braves this season, but he proved worthy of that selection and was the centerpiece to a strong draft class.
Preseason Report Card
Murphy was selected by the Braves with the 20th overall pick of the 2022 MLB amateur draft, becoming the Braves’ first prep player taken in the first round since Carter Stewart in 2018. Murphy was seen as more of a second-round talent, but had gotten first-round buzz in the weeks leading into the draft, and the Braves saw him as a player that would not fall down the board to their compensation round pick.
What we saw in 2022
Murphy needed only two rookie level starts before the Braves decided he was ready for full-season ball as he dominated in five scoreless innings at the lower level. He had a solid first start at Augusta with four strikeouts over 2 2⁄3 innings, but fell apart and allowed five runs without getting out of the first inning in his next turn. He bounced back with four hitless innings in his season finale and finished the year with 13 strikeouts to six walks in 9 1⁄3 innings. Three of those six walks came in his blowup start where he got just one out. Murphy showed off a curveball that I believe could be the top breaking ball in the system in years to come. The pitch was the more consistent of his two breaking balls and demonstrated elite spin and shape early. His fastball is solid, though it wasn’t nearly as impressive as the curveball and he mixed in a slider with showed promise as a third pitch.
Murphy will presumably return to Low-A Augusta to start next year; he has an opportunity to ascend the prospect rankings quickly. He’s a premium athlete with a three-pitch mix and plus curveball, which hitters at the Low-A level tend to struggle with. His command needs to improve, though the athleticism and a clean delivery give him better odds of doing so than are held by young prospects. It is unclear whether the Braves will continue to develop him with a changeup in mind; with other young pitchers who haven’t shown an affinity for the pitch, they’ve ended up dropping it. Murphy is relatively inexperienced on the mound, even for a prep arm, given his time spent as a two-way player in high school, so his development to this point is encouraging and his ceiling shows promise.