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March 7, 2023 at 8:00 AM

2023 Countdown to Spring Training: Chris Murphy and Wikelman Gonzalez

We've made it through the bulk of the offseason and spring training is here! To celebrate the return of baseball, we'll be counting down by posting our scouting reports for the players on our Top 60 from February 13 until March 15—not coincidentally, the same day the SoxProspects brass arrive in Fort Myers for the start of games in minor league camp. 

2022 Teams: Portland and Worcester
Final Stats: 152 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.283 WHIP, 149 K, 72 BB, 11% swinging strike rate
2023 Projected Level: Worcester

Scouting Report
Physical Description: Athletic frame with minimal remaining projection. Looks bigger than listed height and weight. Average lower half, medium build.

Mechanics: Throws from a three-quarters arm slot, starting on the third base side of the rubber. Takes two small steps before a medium leg kick. Drives towards the plate with a big stride and gets good extension. Left leg kicks up on follow-through. Can tend to fall off towards third base post-delivery. Quick, compact arm action. Slight arm hook with some effort behind. Does not consistently finish delivery and can lose release point at times.

Fastball: 90-93 mph. Tops out at 96 mph. Below-average command and control profile. Control comes and goes in outings. Command is inconsistent, but improved somewhat in 2022. Struggles especially with locating to the glove side. Much more comfortable locating arm-side at present. Potential average pitch with refined command.

Changeup: 83-85 mph. Pitch shows late fade down and away from right-handed hitters. Thrown with deceptive arm speed. Will throw in any count. Inconsistent with his release at times. Has improved significantly since he joined the organization to the point he now has advanced feel for the pitch and it is his best secondary. Potential above-average pitch.

Curveball: 73-76 mph. Deep, 1-to-7 break. Has some feel for spin, but does not consistently get over the ball. When he does, shows the ability to backdoor it for a strike or induce swinging strikes out of the zone. Potential average pitch.

Slider: 80-84 mph. More horizontal with shorter break. Pitch is tighter than his curveball. Can be effective when used in sequence with his other pitches. Mostly designed to steal a strike early in the count. Potential below-average pitch.

Career Notes: Not drafted out of high school, but was recruited by several top Division-I colleges in California. Played for Brewster in the Cape Cod League in 2018, struggling with control issues. Had a fairly impressive junior season at San Diego despite walking more than 6 batters per 9 innings. Pitching crosschecker Chris Mears strongly advocated for the Red Sox to select Murphy in the 2019 Draft. Cut down on walks dramatically after signing, reportedly due to minor mechanical tweaks. Participated in the Fall Instructional League in 2019 and 2020. Posted extreme splits in 2021, dominating left-handed hitters (.401 OPS, 0 HR) but getting hit very hard by right-handers (.914 OPS, 21 HR), but this did not carry forward into 2022. Participated in the Fall Performance Program in 2021. Participated in 2022 Winter Warm-Up. Added to the 40-man roster in November 2022 to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Participated in 2023 Rookie Development Program.

Summation: Potential multi-inning relief arm. Ceiling of a back-end starter. Lacks a standout pitch, but has three averageish pitches and a fourth that can be effective when used on occasion. Needs to improve consistency with secondary pitches and command to allow him to work deeper into games and develop into a consistent starter. Chances of starting are better now than in the past now that he has shown he can consistently get right-handed hitters out, something he really struggled with coming into 2022. Showed inconsistent ability to miss bats in 2022 and will need to show more consistency there if he is to stick as a starter.

2022 Teams: Salem and Greenville
Final Stats: 98.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 1.322 WHIP, 121 K, 54 BB, 11% swinging strike rate
2023 Projected Level: Greenville

Scouting Report
Physical Description: Slightly undersized frame. Sturdy lower half with remaining projection in his upper body. Not that tall, looks heavier than his listed weight of 167 pounds. Athleticism has slightly decreased as he has physically matured.

Mechanics: Throws from a three-quarters arm slot. Has streamlined delivery over the course of the 2022 season. Does not use a wind-up. Loose, quick arm. Rotational delivery. Medium leg kick. Stiff arm action with a stab behind. Inconsistent release point. Does not stay closed consistently and falls off hard to the first base side.

Fastball: 93-96 mph. Tops out at 97 mph. Live arm. Will come out 95-96 mph, then settle in at 93-94 mph, topping out at 95 mph. Fastball has shown bat-missing ability even in the zone. Good carry. Will also throw a two-seam fastball in the lower end of that velocity band. Has done a better job holding his velocity deeper into starts in the second half of 2022รข€“used to start tailing off in the third or fourth inning. Command and control are works in progress. Has flashed the ability to locate on occasion. Really struggles to command to his arm side and will yank the pitch to the glove side when his arm gets out ahead of the rest of his delivery. Potential plus offering with refined command.

Changeup: 86-89 mph. Deceptive arm speed. Flashes late, splitter-like drop where it falls off the table. Has feel and confidence in the pitch. Will throw in any count to hitters from both sides and will use it often as a put-away pitch. Will telegraph on occasion by slowing delivery. Pitch is somewhat inconsistent and at times will be on the firm side. Potential above-average offering.

Curveball: 77-80 mph. Long, 11-to-5 break. On some occasions, pitch will flash tight break and has an above-average spin rate. A bit inconsistent at present, will not always get over the pitch and finish it. Potential above-average offering.

Slider: Appears to have scrapped the pitch in favor of the curveball. Was 84-88 mph. 10-to-4 shape with varying length. Had shown some ability to spin, but was inconsistent. Needed a lot of refinement, but would show flashes. Potential average offering.

Career Notes: Opening Day starter in the DSL in 2019. Participated in the Fall Instructional League in 2019 and 2020. Had a breakout 2021 season with a strong showing in the FCL and in Low-A, jumping from the back end of the SoxProspects rankings into the top 15 by season's end. Participated in the Fall Performance Program in 2021. Name was misspelled "Wilkelman" from his signing until April 2022 due to its pronunciation.

Summation: Potential swingman capable of starting or providing length out of the bullpen. Ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. Wide-range of outcomes due to lack of consistency and where he is in the development process. Potential for three above-average-to-better pitches, but a long way to go to get there and must significantly improve command and control to reach his ceiling. Still learning how to pitch, but is not as raw as some comparable arms age-wise in the system. Has simplified his delivery, which had a lot of moving parts, which should make it easier for him to keep his arm in sync with the rest of his body. If command does not improve, that, along with his size and delivery, could push him to a short relief bullpen role.

Photo Credit: Chris Murphy and Wikelman Gonzalez by Kelly O'Connor.

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.