Projecting Rockies Call-Ups Cristhian Adames & Tom Murphy

At 60-84, the Rockies are not merely way out of contention, but also mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The team’s in full on rebuild mode these days, and simply put, there aren’t all that many exciting players on their roster. However, they’ve called up a couple of interesting hitters this September who could ultimately develop into useful contributors and help out the next competitive Rockies team: infielder Cristhian Adames and catcher Tom Murphy.

Cristhian Adames

Let’s start with 24-year-old Cristhian Adames, who’s a good bit closer to being ready for the big leagues than Murphy. Adames has hit a loud .391/.440/.435 in semi-regular playing time the last couple of weeks, and has played each of the past few days while filling in for the injured Jose Reyes. Over half of Adames’s balls in play have fallen for hits, which has certainly played no small role in his recent success. But even so, pushing .400 is a great way to make a positive impression.

Adames also hit for an high batting average in the minors this year, where his high-contact approach produced a .311/.362/.438 showing at the Triple-A level. His most notable attribute was his 11% strikeout rate, and he paired it with respectable power and walk numbers. Based on his 2015 performance, KATOH forecasts Adames for 2.9 WAR through age 28, which closely mirrors last year’s 3.0 WAR forecast. KATOH essentially thinks he’s a back-end top-200 prospect, and that trajectory hasn’t changed from last year. He’s just a year further along, and a year closer to being ready for the big leagues.

Everyone loves a comp, so let’s go ahead and generate a few for Adames. Adames’s league-adjusted stats and his age, I calculated the Mahalanobis distance between Adames’s 2015 season, and every Triple-A season since 1990 in which a player recorded at least 400 plate appearances. Below, you’ll find a list of historical players whose performances were nearest and dearest to Adames’s, ranked from most to least similar.

Cristhian Adames’s Statistical Comps
Rank Mah Dist Name PA thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.20 Rey Sanchez 1,775 3.9
2 0.24 Mark Loretta 2,262 4.8
3 0.32 Brandon Phillips 3,004 10.2
4 0.37 Enrique Wilson 1,103 0.0
5 0.43 Gary DiSarcina 2,514 4.6
6 0.65 Alex Romero 299 0.0
7 0.84 Stephen Piscotty* 197 1.0
8 0.92 Matt Tolbert 454 0.7
9 0.92 David Lough 597 4.6
10 0.93 Jerry Hairston 2,086 6.8
11 0.94 Richard Hidalgo 3,011 20.0
12 0.96 Justin Turner 926 0.5
13 0.98 Nick Ahmed* 516 1.2
14 0.98 William Bergolla 38 0.0
15 0.98 Tony Manahan 0 0.0
16 0.99 Matt Franco 414 0.5
17 1.01 Brian Kowitz* 28 0.0
18 1.02 Mike Caruso 1,140 0.0
19 1.03 Jorge Velandia 202 0.0
20 1.04 Eduardo Nunez* 1,221 0.0
*Yet to play age-28 season
Note: 2B, 3B, SS colored yellow

Adames’ slap-hitting middle infielder profile isn’t anything all that exciting, but it’s a profile that carries over to the big leagues fairly often. Look no further than Mark Loretta, who parlayed that skill set into a 100 wRC+ over a 15 year career. Loretta’s an optimistic, yet probably still realistic, comp for Adames.

Like Loretta, there’s nothing flashy about Adames. At the same time, though, there are no real holes in his game, either. Adames will never be known for his power or speed, but showed enough to eclipse double digits in both homers and steals this year. And while he’s nothing special on defense, he can hold his own all over the infield, including at shortstop. Odds are, Adames will never be anything more than a part-time player. But those same odds say he’s unlikely to be anything less than that.

Adames’s future with the Rockies isn’t exactly clear. The middle infield combo of Jose Reyes and DJ LeMahieu is slated to return for the 2015 season, and Trevor Story should also be ready sometime soon, given his impressive showing in the minors this year. But if Adames continues to hit, the Rockies will surely find at bats for him somewhere, even if they’ll need to make a trade to do so.

*****

Tom Murphy

The Rockies drafted Murphy in the third round out of college in 2010, and he’s teed off against minor league pitching ever since. He hit a strong .288/.365/.527 between 2012 and 2013, and closed out the latter year at the Double-A level at the tender age of 22. He was hitting similarly well in the early weeks of 2014, before his season ended abruptly on May 15th following a shoulder injury.

Murphy was much healthier this year. He broke camp at Double-A, and showed few signs of rust by hitting .249/.320/.468 out of the gate. He continued to impress by hitting .271/.301/.535 following a July promotion to Triple-A. Most notably, Murphy demonstrated impressive power for a catcher, belting 20 homers in 430 trips to the plate this year.

Yet, despite this strong performance, Kiley McDaniel still thinks he’s just a 45 or 45+ FV — the equivalent of a platoon player. He informed me that many scouts aren’t convinced he has impact tools, particularly on offense. KATOH agrees with this assessment. In particular, KATOH’s turned off by Murphy’s inability to make consistent contact, which manifested itself in a 29% strikeout rate this year. My system projects him for an unremarkable 1.1 WAR through age 28, which jibes with his 2014 forecast of 1.0 WAR. Simply put, KATOH doesn’t like Murphy’s odds of sticking as a first string catcher in the big leagues.

The Mahalanobis comps tell a similar story:

Tom Murphy’s Statistical Comps
Rank Mah Dist Name PA thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.49 Walter Young 37 0.0
2 0.55 Matthew Clark* 31 0.0
3 0.58 Kevin Witt 363 0.0
4 0.66 Nigel Wilson 36 0.0
5 0.83 Domingo Martinez 23 0.3
6 0.85 Josh Bonifay 0 0.0
7 0.91 Tom Collaro 0 0.0
8 1.02 Craig Paquette 1,492 0.0
9 1.06 Kevin Roberson 345 0.0
10 1.07 Bubba Smith 0 0.0
11 1.10 Anthony Lewis 0 0.0
12 1.12 Brandon Larson 332 0.0
13 1.16 Steven Hill 13 0.0
14 1.20 John Rodriguez 388 1.0
15 1.21 Darren Blakely 0 0.0
16 1.27 Greg Sparks 0 0.0
17 1.29 T.R. Marcinczyk 0 0.0
18 1.30 Ben Paulsen* 399 1.2
19 1.30 Julian Yan 0 0.0
20 1.36 Ryan Radmanovich 75 0.0
*Yet to play age-28 season
Note: Catchers colored yellow

Players with Murphy’s offensive profile rarely make enough contact to have success in the big leagues. Since Murphy’s a catcher, the bar for his bat is undeniably lower than it was for many of the names listed above. Nonetheless, high strikeouts, few walks and good power are the hallmarks of a Quad-A player. Guys like that make for very good Triple-A hitters, but generally can’t parlay that success over to the highest level.

With a relatively healthy 2015, Murphy has redeemed his prospect status after a lost 2014 campaign. But there are still more than enough doubts there to hold off on crowning him Colorado’s catcher of the future. With Nick Hundley and Michael McKenry both out for the year, Murphy figures to play pretty regularly the next couple of weeks, and it will be interesting to see what he can do. But he’ll almost certainly open next season in the minors, where he’ll be tasked with bringing his strikeout rate closer to 20%. Although Murphy’s power makes him interesting, his future doesn’t look particularly promising if he can’t find a way to cut down on the whiffs.





Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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The Humber Games
6 years ago

Since you go back to 1990, have you ever run these Mahalanobis numbers on players who’ve already retired? How often and to what degree do players turn out to really be comparable to their top listed comps? Maybe not in counting stats, since those can vary wildly over a career for reasons other than skill (heath, for example), but how about rate stats?

I get that’s not entirely the purpose/utility of your comps, but it’d be an interesting exercise to see how often similar minor league careers really produce similar major league careers.