When casually thinking about David Murphy it seems easy to lump him in with the Justin Smoaks and Chris Davises of the world. He's just another young guy that hasn't lived up to his potential right? After all, he was a first round draft pick for the Red Sox way back in 2003. He failed to flourish in the Red Sox system so the Red Sox traded him away along with two other prospects for the erstwhile Eric Gagne. But Murphy isn't like Smoak and Davis and Gabbard and Saltalamacchia and a half dozen other young players that didn't pan out for the Rangers. Murphy has produced for the Rangers and was rewarded with his first decent contract at the age of 29.
Murphy is no longer a youngster or a prospect. He's become a grinder and that is a telling thing about a guy that was once so highly prized coming out of Baylor University that the Red Sox drafted him in the first round. Murphy has hung in there and after 1552 plate appearances in parts of five big league seasons, Murphy has an .803 career OPS and a 109 OPS+. Last year showed his most prolonged playing time and he responded with a slash line of: .291/.358/.449 in 467 plate appearances over 138 games.
Murphy was a life saver for the Rangers in their 2010 pennant run in a year when both Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz missed significant playing time due to injuries. Murphy doesn't have those two player's pop and therein lies some of his problem. He doesn't ever have a true place to play. Hamilton is slated for left and Cruz for right and that leaves only center field open. And center field is Murphy's worst position. Murphy is best in right, but Cruz can't play center, not with his fragile wheels anyway. The Rangers want to avoid putting Hamilton back there because of his injury risk.
And because center isn't Murphy's best position, the Rangers would prefer that Julio Borbon grow into the every day center fielder because of his superior defensive skills there. The problem for the Rangers is that Borbon shows absolutely no patience at the plate (19 walks in over 400 plate appearances) and the rest of Borbon's offense doesn't make up for his lack of ability to get on base.
Moreland has first base sown up, so that leaves Murphy without a position except as the fourth outfielder unless the Rangers decide to weaken their defense for the sake of the offense. It's possible that with a lot of work, Murphy could be a better center fielder. He's not slow. He stole 14 bases in 16 attempts last year. This Fan simply doesn't believe Borbon will develop into anything resembling an offensive player, so the Rangers should work hard with Murphy on his defense and for the sake of the offense, try to make him a better center fielder so he can play there every day. But as of now, the fans scouting report shows that he only has average instincts in the outfield and an average first step. Can you teach those sort of things?
Murphy is a nice player for the Rangers. He provides insurance in the outfield in case of injury. He adds to the Rangers' offense with average pop and good gap power. He runs the bases well and if his career shows anything, he is a grinder. He's a productive player and let's hope he continues to contribute on a regular basis.