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First impressions of Braves 1st round pick Owen Murphy

The Atlanta Braves went a little off of most boards in making Owen Murphy their first round pick, but perhaps they found value in that pick

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

While there was connection with Owen Murphy and the Atlanta Braves, very few people expected him to go 20th overall like he did in this past July’s draft. Since then he’s made his debut in a Braves uniform and quickly made his way up to Augusta and full season ball. Murphy was untouchable in the Florida Complex League, making two starts in which he didn’t allow a run or walk while striking out seven batters in five innings. He made a solid debut with Augusta by allowing one run over 2 23 innings, but in his second game had a blow up outing and couldn’t get out of the first inning.

Murphy’s fastball sits in the low-90s and has touched 95 mph, and right now it is the pitch they are having him focus on developing. He has thrown 80%+ fastball in his two starts in Augusta and to some extent has gotten punished for it as that’s what Low-A hitters are chasing for. Murphy’s fastball doesn’t have that elite velocity and his frame doesn’t give reason to believe there is too much projection left, so the focus for the Braves is having him develop his command of the pitch. He doesn’t generate ride up in the zone either, so the pitch may have trouble missing bats against better hitters. Atlanta has still had him working nearly exclusively up in the zone, but Murphy’s fastball as it currently stands projects less as a pitch to use in strikeout situations.

Murphy’s curveball was an immediately impressive pitch from the first use of it, and although he still struggles to land the pitch in good zones consistently the shape of the pitch is absolutely fantastic. While Murphy’s fastball isn’t elite it does create a pitch off of which his curveball can tunnel. Murphy’s bender is has a tight, sharp spin in a good plane off of his fastball and frequently fooled hitters when it was being utilized. Thrown around 8-10 miles per hour slower than the fastball it is hard to recognize for any of its characteristics and can be a go-to pitch in late counts. Murphy’s breaking ball is one of the better ones in the system already and will be the pitch that will ultimately determine how much he can succeed. Murphy hasn’t thrown a changeup yet that I have seen, so judgement will need to be reserved on that.

Murphy has high-level athleticism and a relatively simple delivery, but as of now that doesn’t really seem to be showing up in his command. Murphy has a bit less experience than most being a two-way player and all of the tools are their for him to have good future command, but right now he fails to locate either his fastball or curveball well. Some players with all of the tools for command never manage to figure it out and that is a risk for Murphy, but if there is a player that can learn to command his fastball it would be one with Murphy’s profile.

It’s way too early and too small of a sample to make sweeping judgements on Murphy, but my first impression of him is that there is a good base of athleticism and a fantastic curveball to work with. Fastball command is and will be his primary focus and I don’t expect particularly quick advancement, but as he leans on the curveball and changeup more often we will hopefully see him put away hitters at a higher rate. We need to see the change up to really get a feel for who he is right now, but in terms of the movement metrics on his fastball and curveball he shows some similarity to current Braves starter Kyle Wright. He doesn’t have the velocity that Wright does and that may or may not ever develop, but his pitches at their highest quality have shown quite the promise. I don’t yet see Murphy as the type of high end talent that can really change a franchise, but I do see the basic steps towards him being a solid mid-rotation starter.

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