BJ Murray – Picture by Todd Johnson
Welcome to the final installment of “The 5 Series!” Since this is the last article, that can only mean one thing and that is baseball is just around the corner. In fact, spring training starts next week for the major league squad but many Cubs prospects are already out in Arizona getting ready for minor league camp, which starts at the beginning of March.
The final post of the 5 series this year is all about infielder BJ Murray. The Cubs took Murray out of Florida Atlantic University in the 15th round of the 2021 draft. Almost immediately, he showed a flair for power, as well as the ability to control the strike zone.
At the age of 22, Murray did pretty well in his first full pro season. He split time between Myrtle Beach and South Bend. Overall, he got in 315 ABs, hit eight home runs, and drove in 53 runs. He hit .286 with an OPS of .838. In total, he played in 111 games and played a mixture of first base and third base.
Murray turned 23 in January and will probably start out the year at South Bend. But I’m not too sure on that. Either way, there’s a lot of buzz about Murray heading into 2023.
Here are five reasons why.
When Murray came over to South Bend in late June, he struggled a bit before starting to find his way. It took some time for him to get in a groove and adjust to hitting in the Midwest League where the ball tends to travel quite a bit better than in the Carolinas. Moving from Low-A to High-A is turning out to be a pretty good adjustment for hitters. The next step Murray’s going to make is going up to Tennessee and his experience in adjusting at South Bend will only help him.
2. Jared Banner
The Cubs Director of Player Development singled him out at the Cubs Convention last month as someone who has some pop in his bat and is able to control the zone. It’s a good sign when the director of the farm system singles you out!
3. Home Run Derby
One of the fun things that happened this winter was that BJ took part in a home run derby near his hometown of Nassau in the Bahamas. He came away with the first place trophy and he did it all hitting from the right side of the plate.
4.Three Spots in the Lineup.
As a switch-hitter, Murray could play pretty much every day if the Cubs let him. He can play third base, he can play first, and he can be the designated hitter. What helps him in any spot is that he is a switch-hitter. Currently, he has more power from the left side. It’ll be interesting if he continues to hit from both sides. I doubt if the Cubs, for right now, make him pick a side. It’s pretty obvious which side makes him more valuable.
5. Ahead of Him.
For both Matt Mervis and Jake Slaughter, the top Cubs first and third base hitters last year, those seasons came out of the blue. Although most people tend to believe that their results are sustainable. As far as Murray is concerned, there’s not really anyone who is blocking him from getting to Tennessee and playing every day. Mervis may start the year at Iowa, but Bryce Ball is not really blocking Murray at first base or DH. As a result, there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for him to get a lot of work this year against advanced competition. I would not be surprised to see him end the year in the Arizona Fall League.
The strange thing about this new minor league structure that began in 2021 is that not having short season A-ball really speeds up the development process for a lot of players. Some of them are ready for it, some are not. For BJ, he seems to be doing just fine moving up and adapting. This year will be a big step in his development, especially if he makes it to Tennessee. The question for him is not if he gets to the Southern League, it’s going to be when. His play in spring training will determine where he begins in what will hopefully be an exciting 2023 season.