Last week the RotoFanatic team dropped our first set of positional rankings. You can check out the catcher rankings here. One of the things interesting about aggregated rankings like ours is looking at the spaces where we diverge the most. With that spirit in mind, we decided to have two of our writers duke it out and discuss why they find themselves on the high or low end for a particular player. These articles will drop on Mondays and Wednesdays with a different position as the focus each time.
For this first article, we are discussing the Athletic’s young catcher Sean Murphy. So far in his career, Murphy has shown a ton of power for the catcher position. In 200 ABs across two seasons, he has hit 11 homers and posted a double-digit walk rate. However, Murphy has also posted a low AVG and a strikeout rate of over 25%.
Overall in NFBC leagues thus far, Murphy is going as the 9th catcher off the board. For the pro-Muphy side, we have Dave Funnell who ranked Murphy at 7 and Carmen Maiorano who had Murphy all the way down at 16 arguing the low side. As an added bonus I will take a look at the player in question from the view of RotoFanatic’s very own Data Monster our custom stats that help us to better evaluate players. Y
ou can access the Data Monster through this link.
The High Ranking For Murphy (C7)
I like Sean Murphy for a lot of reasons. His growth at the plate was evident last year, with a 17.1% walk rate, an increased line drive rate of 14.7%, and an almost elite barrel rate of 12.7%. On top of that, his hard-hit rate and exit velocity are both in the 91st percentile, showing me that when he hit the ball, he hit it well. Furthermore, he is a great defender and will be playing almost every day in a decent lineup around the middle of the order.
So if you add the metrics to his swing, plus his ability to make good contact, his potential for everyday playing time, and the fact that he should improve (he’s a heralded prospect), you get the potential a collection of counting stats that should put him within the top 10 at his position. And when the catcher is as volatile as it is, why not go for someone who had some great underlying reasons to believe that the best is yet to come?
The Low Ranking For Murphy (C16)
I’m the low man on Sean Murphy, despite his Statcast metrics, mainly for his batting average. While he hits the ball hard and will likely hit around 20 homers with league average R+RBI totals, the average is such a drain on your roto team. I don’t see him hitting much above .230, due to a few reasons:
· Career 26.5% strikeout rate, 5 points above league average
· Sprint speed in the 22nd percentile
· Pull-hitter tendencies.
2020’s small sample didn’t show this, but he historically has been a pull hitter throughout the minors and especially when he came up in 2019 (albeit another small sample). This ranking is more a function of prioritizing the scarcest categories. Omar Narvaez, Buster Posey, Wilson Ramos, and Yadier Molina (if he plays) will all beat Murphy’s average by 30-40 points, which gets them ranked ahead of Murphy. We can always get power later in the draft.
The Data Monster’s Take
One of the cool things about looking at a younger player is the Data Monster will have a take on his MiLB career as well.
Above is Murphy’s 2019 range of outcomes chart. As you can see, the model actually sees a decent amount of upside in Murphy’s game. He had a fairly high failure rate (30% chance at 0 MLB production) however, now that we know Murphy has reached the MLB level, we can see that we should not be concerned about this failure rate as much. In fact, according to the model, Murphy has a respectable 7% chance of elite fantasy production. However, what we can also see is that he a fairly high chance of settling in as an average fantasy performer (8-10).
Yet, we can also look at what Murphy has actually done at the MLB level. The thing that I found most interesting about Murphy is that the Data Monster actually sees him as a guy who makes contact more than we would expect based on the pitches he saw. This usually leads me to believe a player like him with a high K rate could be too passive at the plate. However, this also does not seem to be the case with Murphy, as he had around 40th percentile in zone swing rates in both 2019 and 2020. With these two facts put together, this makes me believe that there is room for Murphy to drop his K rate. Combine that with his 66th percentile wOBA Influence value and I think there is room for Murphy to improve as a hitter in 2021 and beyond.
The Data Monster seems to side with Dave on this argument but the important question is what side do you find yourself on?