Max Murphy is a player I’ve known about for a few years now. He first came to my attention when he was with the, still unaffiliated at the time, St. Paul Saints. It’s not hard to get my attention when you’re a decent power hitter on what was then my favorite team in unaffiliated baseball. A few years later, the Saints are no longer in unaffiliated ball, are no longer my favorite team in any way, and Muprhy has blossomed into much more than a power hitter.
When the Saints left unaffiliated baseball Murphy suddenly found himself without a team. He shortly made his way to the Winnipeg Goldeyes and thus was able to stay in the American Association. At first, he was the same old Max; decent power, good numbers all around, but not a player that other leagues were falling over themselves to sign. In 2022 that has all changed as Murphy has taken a good hitters profile and turned it into a great hitters profile. Changes like that are what lead to a guy winning the AAPB Player of the Year and signing a contract with Mayos de Navojoa of Liga Mexicana del Pacífico for the summer.
How did Murphy elevate his game so much? Simple, he went from a decent power hitter to someone who hits just about everything for power. It sounds silly to say, but Murphy didn’t make any huge adjustments. The righty is still making good contact and getting on base at about the same clip he has historically. His Slugging Percentage, on the other hand, jumped almost 100 percentage points and is the highest he’s ever put up in a full season of baseball. A slash line that reads .308/.360/.601 in 442 plate appearances is great, but what really makes it great for Murphy is the .601 number.
He got to .601 by smacking 31 home runs, 17 doubles, and four triples. He was the picture of consistency for a Goldeyes team that rode Murphy and David Washington to their first playoff birth in years. Down the stretch, Murphy and Washington were almost single handily responsible for the Goldeyes making said playoffs. Murphy became not just a power threat when he would stride to the batter’s box, but a true game changer.
Sometimes players make adjustments and other times players simply find another gear. Writing about the adjustments is easy, they are quantifiable and can be pointed to as concrete reasons why a player has improved in an area. In the case of a player like Murphy, it’s harder to quantify why he’s suddenly moving mountains with his swing. He still has the same uppercut-heavy swing he’s had his entire career. The outfielder might have packed on a little more muscle, but nothing that would point to his sudden surge in power. The rest of his skills have stayed the same so that leaves only one possible explanation. May Murphy, at the age of 29 found another gear and blossomed into the player he always had the capability of being.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news for Murphy. The day before he was named AAPB PotY he was involved in a gruesome collision at home plate trying to score on a fielder’s choice in the Goldeyes’ first game of the 2022 playoffs. Murphy suffered a fracture to his left leg and had to undergo surgery. The injury will likely cost him a winter in Navojoa. One can only hope that this isn’t the sort of injury that derails a revitalized career. Being named AAPB PotY was even a bittersweet experience as Murphy underwent surgery on his leg that very day. Still, following an outstanding 2022, I’m not about to doubt Murphy’s ability to bounce back from his injury. When he does he’ll be playing for more winter shots and if he does recover the sky is the limit for the slugger.
Lead photo courtesy of Mikaela MacKenzie – Winnipeg Free Press