Daniel Murphy is set to sign with the Colorado Rockies, and his fantasy baseball value is set to rise accordingly.
During the 2015 postseason, Daniel Murphy became an unlikely star with half as many home runs (seven) as he had during that entire regular season. He carried that into the following two seasons with the Washington Nationals, before knee surgery delayed his start last season and he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in August.
On Thursday, multiple reports pointed to Murphy signing with the Colorado Rockies. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported it’ll be a two-year deal worth $24 million, with Robert Murray of The Athletic adding the deal includes a mutual option and a buyout.
Murphy has predominantly been a second baseman during his career, but he’s in line to mostly play first base for the Rockies. Apart from added position eligibility, which he already has in a lot of leagues after playing 14 games at first base last year, Murphy’s stock is clearly boosted by the move to thin of Denver for half of his games.
As he worked his way back from knee surgery, Murphy started 2018 slowly with a .643 OPS in 28 games before the All-Star break. But after the All-Star break he was better, with a .315/.346/.498 slash-line (.844 OPS), 11 home runs and 30 RBI over 63 games (254 plate appearances).
A deeper dive (courtesy of FanGraphs) shows some declines in percentage of balls hit in the air to his pull side (right field) and exit velocity. But Murphy continued to make contact at a high rate last year (87.8 percent), while hitting lots of fly balls (39.2 percent) and line drives (25.8).
Besides how well the ball flies at Coors Field, the spacious outfield is an extra base hit haven. Murphy led the National League in doubles in 2016 (47) and 2017 (43), and despite being a glacially slow runner he hit a total of eight triples over those two seasons.
Murphy carries durability concerns approaching 34 years old (April 1), but before last year he had played at least 130 games in six straight seasons (142 or more games five times). He can be hidden at first base by the Rockies, which should help preserve his health.
As could be expected as a left-handed hitter, Murphy has hit right-handed pitching slightly better over his career (.834 OPS). He has hardly been dead-weight against left-handers (.714 career OPS), but a red flag came last year with significant gap in OPS against right (.864) and left-handers (.563).
Somewhere between last year and 2016 and ’17 feels like the projection for Murphy in 2019, with a slight boost for the Coors Field effect. In DFS play, at home against a lackluster right-handed starter is the starting point for Murphy’s inclusion in lineups.
Murphy, health-permitting, has a great chance to finish as a top-10 fantasy second baseman again this year. And he’s shaping up to be a nice draft day value at a position that lacks depth.
Daniel Murphy 2019 Projection: .302/.350/.490 slash-line, 23 home runs, 85 RBI, 75 runs scored.