Could Owen Murphy Be This Year’s Smith Shawver?

owen murphy promotion
Atlanta Braves fans have a new reason to be excited. Young pitching phenom Owen Murphy is tearing up High-A, drawing comparisons to the Braves' 2023 breakout star, AJ Smith-Shawver. Murphy's dominance could fast-track him to the big leagues – could he be the next young star to rise through Atlanta's ranks? *Update never mind.

Atlanta Braves fans are buzzing or at least should be buzzing, or whatever buzzing means to you, about a new pitching phenomenon tearing through High-A: Owen Murphy. The 20-year-old right-hander is suddenly dominant, and his electrifying April performances are drawing comparisons to the Braves’ surprise 2023 success story, AJ Smith-Shawver.

The question lingers, if Owen Murphy stays hot could he see a callup sooner rather than later?  

Similarities to Previous Young Phenom

Smith-Shawver, last year’s breakout rookie sensation, made the highly improbable jump from minor leagues to playoff starter for the defending World Champions. Like Smith-Shawver, Murphy boasts an overpowering arsenal and exceptional command that belies his age and experience. His stellar start to the 2024 season suggests he could be next in line to fast-track his way to Atlanta.

Murphy’s Breakout Season

Murphy’s numbers leave little room for doubt. In April 2024, he dominated across 17 innings for the Rome Braves, allowing a minuscule 1.13 ERA while racking up 21 strikeouts with just 3 walks. Murphy’s dominance echoes Smith-Shawver’s rapid ascent, a path defined by an eye-popping strikeout-to-walk ratio and a ruthless ability to keep runs off the board.

Murphy’s Minor League Journey

  • 2022: Finding His Footing Drafted 20th overall out of high school, Murphy’s pro debut split time between Rookie ball and Low-A. Early outings showed his raw power and potential, but also inconsistency. He struggled with his command at times, surrendering walks that inflated his ERA, despite glimpses of strikeout brilliance.
  • 2023: Refining and Growing Assigned to Low-A Augusta for a full season, Murphy focused on harnessing his control and developing his secondary pitches. His fastball remained electric, but he worked on refining his changeup and curveball into true weapons. This year was about progress, not eye-popping numbers, as Murphy gained composure while still flashing the dominance that made him a first-round pick.
  • 2024: The Breakout The hard work paid off. Promoted to High-A Rome, Murphy has been sensational. His fastball hums, secondary pitches baffle hitters, and the walks have diminished significantly. This April, he’s shown the ‘complete package’ scouts dreamed of when he was drafted.

Murphy’s Pitching Arsenal

The heart of Murphy’s success lies in his deceptively powerful arsenal. His fastball sits in the low 90s but boasts impressive spin and life, making it far more effective than its velocity suggests. Complementing this, his slider cuts sharply with a tight spin, and his curveball offers a slower, more looping counterpoint. While still a work in progress, Murphy’s changeup shows potential as a fourth weapon. Scouts grade his overall command favorably, which bodes well for his ability to consistently paint corners and make full use of his repertoire.

Pull the breaks?

Murphy’s journey hasn’t been without its hurdles so perhaps we should pump the breaks a bit. To be fair, the transition from high school to pro ball is tough, and initially, his command wasn’t always consistent. He worked tirelessly between seasons to polish his mechanics and develop unwavering confidence in his full-pitch arsenal. Now, hitters are finding Murphy to be an almost unsolvable puzzle.

What Does the Future Hold For Murphy?

If Murphy continues this trajectory, a mid-season promotion to Double-A Mississippi wouldn’t be surprising. With a talent reminiscent of Smith-Shawver, baseball pundits are starting to wonder if Murphy could force his way into the Braves’ 2025 rotation plans. He has the potential to be that ‘something special’ for a team already loaded with young pitching stars.pen_spark

2022 0 1 4.50 5 5 0 0 0 12.0 7 6 6 0 6 17 .163 1.08 1.11
2023 6 4 4.72 21 21 0 0 0 89.2 83 53 47 9 32 113 .244 1.28 0.59
2024 3 2 1.52 5 5 0 0 0 29.2 12 6 5 2 10 41 .119 0.74 0.33
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