SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies catching prospect Tom Murphy lived up to his power-hitting reputation with a home run Friday in his Cactus League debut. But he knows it also takes brains to make it, and he showed plenty of that last year in the Minors.
Murphy hit 22 homers in 2013, but he put himself on the big league radar with how quickly he took charge of the pitch-calling strategy when he moved to Double-A Tulsa for his final 20 games. It's partly because he's always been in charge.
U.S. amateur ball has high stakes attached to almost every game. The concept of a regular season is nearly dead in youth travel ball, since everything is a tournament. In reaction, a prevalent trend is coaches calling the pitches. Some major college programs have taken to giving the catcher a football-style wristband and signaling every pitch or adjustment from the bench. So when one has the ability to go further, the professional organization has to educate the catcher from scratch. But that has never been the case with Murphy, who turns 23 on April 3.
"That's the lucky part for me -- I've never had a coach call a pitch for me, ever," Murphy said. "I truly believe in that sort of thing. They've got to learn the game at the most basic level. I don't like people to think for me. I like to think for myself."
Murphy began calling pitches when pitchers were old enough to have pitches to call. In high school in West Monroe, N.Y., his coach, former Le Moyne College standout and Mets Minor League outfielder Kyle Brown, believed it as well.
"He advanced me on the game and got me on the right path," Murphy said.
The power should help quicken Murphy's path to the Majors. He hit 19 homers in 80 games at Class A Asheville and skipped a level to go to Tulsa. In just 20 Double-A games, Murphy hit .290 with five doubles, three homers and nine RBIs.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Murphy still needs to develop along the normal Minor League learning curve, and he has to be more consistent with the technical aspects of receiving the ball. Big league camp has been a chance for Murphy to show that he is comfortable taking charge, even with more experienced pitchers.
"One of our absolutes with the Rockies is that the catcher has to take the leadership role," Murphy said. "I have to do it with these older guys, that's for sure. It's really nothing more than showing guys that you know what you're talking about and having reasons for things. I don't suggest anything that I don't really believe in."
Rockies player development director Jeff Bridich said, "Not in every way, but in some ways it's almost a re-creation of Chris Iannetta before our eyes. They've got some differences in how they play the game and how they swing the bat, and Tommy's got a little bit better arm than Chris has. But it's that block, brute-strength catcher's body."