BJ Murray – Picture by the Tennessee Smokies
Let’s be honest, when the Cubs took BJ Murray in the 15th round of the 2021 MLB draft, I didn’t know much about him. I could access his stat line and see that he hit some dingers in college and he came on strong near the end of his career at Florida Atlantic University. What I did like from his draft profile was that he was a switch hitter and he played a premium position at third base. Whether he could stick there in the pros, that was another question.
Fast forward to today and I am looking at BJ Murray as most likely candidate to be NSB’s Hitter of the Month for May in the Cubs system. He had six home runs and 17 RBI in May while hitting .286 with an outstanding .413 on base percentage and an OPS of over 1.000. In addition, he got on-base in 27 straight games. Those are some outstanding numbers and it’s easy to see why he’s the leading candidate to win that award tomorrow. MLB Pipeline added him to their Top 30 Cubs list in May as well.
If you go back in time a month, it would be hard to predict that breakout of a month.
Murray’s April can best be described as a lot of walks and not a lot of hits. Murray hit just .212 for the month, but he was walking at a ridiculous rate. So much so that his on base percentage was .376. What does that tell us? He has a pretty good knowledge of the strike zone to begin with. But what Murray has shown in a short tenure as a Cub is that he does struggle when he moves up a level. He did it twice in 2022. And each time….he adapts.
After playing in the Arizona Rookie League in the fall of 2021, Murray was assigned to Myrtle Beach to start 2022. That team had a magical run, but for Murray, that first month was tough. He hit . 227 at the plate with a .292 0BP. In May, he hit .329 with a .447 OBP. That’s a pretty solid month in a pitchers league. He followed that up by hitting .306 to start June and then he was shipped off to South Bend.
I was there when he arrived in South Bend, he seemed pretty happy to be there but manager Lance Rymel didn’t quite have a feel for where he was going to play. He was replacing Jake slaughter who just got promoted to Tennessee but those first two weeks in Wisconsin were not easy. Murray barely hit .200 and he was not playing every day
But then the calendar turned over to July and he took off and didn’t stop hitting the rest of the year. He hit .273 at South Bend with a .388 OBP. When I saw him, I was always impressed with his eye at the plate. He knows what good pitches are, and he lays off the bad ones.
Murray continued developing some power over the winter< he played in the Arizona Fall League. He won a home run contest at the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas, where he is actually from. He played for Great Britain in the WBC. He never stopped. That confidence carried over into this year, and now we’re starting to see the fruits of his hard work and natural talents.
June is going to be a really interesting month for him as the ball tends to travel pretty well in the Southern League as the temperatures get high, and the humidity levels get higher in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. I’m pretty excited to see just exactly how well he does.
One thing is clear, he is a judicious hitter. He’s not going to be afraid to take a walk versus trying to force something at the plate. He’s not going to strike out a lot, he’s going to make contact but it is going to be intriguing how much power he will continue to have. It will be fun watching, too.