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David Murphy: Undrafted

David Murphy hit over .300 with double-digit power and steals last season. He’s in line for more playing time with Josh Hamilton gone. He just turned 31, so age is only a slight concern.

But David Murphy wasn’t drafted in the RotoGraphs Mock Draft. Maybe he should have been.

First of all, this is all an excuse to embed this humorous tweet:

But now that we’ve done that, we can move on to Serious Analysis TM.

There’s an obvious flaw with Murphy that some of you may be shouting at the screen. The lefty can’t hit lefties, or at least he hasn’t yet. A career spent mashing righties to the tune of an .841 OPS and a 119 wRC+ has also been spent flailing against lefties for a .675 OPS and a 75 wRC+. The power dives, he walks less and he strikes out more. That may not be likely to change for a couple of reasons.

He has only managed 595 plate appearances against lefties, meaning that his work against right-handed pitchers is good for 76% of his total time at the plate. That’s about 6% more than he should see if he was facing pitchers of both hands at the American League rate last season. He’s being platooned now, and that probably means his team knows more than we do about his abilities against southpaws. And, let’s say you were to regress his work against lefties to the league average to reflect the fact that he hasn’t accrued a huge sample of work in those situations, you’d merely push that 75 wRC+ closer to 100, but it would be impossible to move it to the other side of 100.

The fact remains that David Murphy has never put up 600 plate appearances, and he might now have the chance. With Josh Hamilton gone, it’s going to take some combination of Leonys Martin, Craig Gentry and Julio Borbon just to figure out center field. If none of the three step forward for a full-time gig, that doesn’t leave a palatable platoon option for Murphy in left. In other words: Craig Gentry is fine, and right-handed, but he’s the only other right-hander, and he may need to spell the lefty center fielders.

What happens to Murphy’s stats if you add back in work against left-handers? Obviously you’d need to dial some of the power and contact skills back, considering his past. Let’s do without the regression and treat his near-600 plate appearances against lefties as his true talent, then force his lefty/righty mix back to 70/30, pro-rate the new mix to 600 plate appearances, and see what he might have done the last three years if he had played daily.

Actual Full Time
2010 12 54 65 14 .291 13 50 77 14 .286
2011 11 46 46 11 .275 12 46 63 11 .246
2012 15 65 61 10 .304 14 51 68 10 .296

Murphy has a .091 ISO against left-handers, and six lifetime home runs against them in almost a full season of plate appearances. He also has six runs, career, when a lefty is on the mound. His batting average is .266, and his plate discipline (more strikeouts) backs that up. If you like David Murphy, and you want a full slate of at-bats for him, you’re likely to add a home run or two — no more — and a few RBI. But you’ll also have to take that batting average down a notch. The fans seem to have the right idea so far, with a 15/72/78/11 line in 566 plate appearances, but the .289 batting average might be a little healthy.

Considering he was the 186th-ranked player last season, and worth almost $6, he should probably be drafted. But don’t expect much more value, because of the negatives that come with the added playing time. Take a notch of Murphy’s rate stats, and add it back in to his counting stats, and you get something similar to what he did last season, just in a slightly different format.