If you watched Jayden Murray pitch at any point this season, you would think he was a first round pick and a well known prospect–that is how impressive and consistent he was all year long. Murray led the Minor Leagues in WHIP (0.71), batting average allowed (.150), and ranked third in ERA (2.16).
A 23rd round pick out of then Division II Dixie State University in 2019, Murray appealed to the Rays thanks to his phenomenal strike throwing ability and strong spin rates. After averaging just 2.3 BB/9 in college with improving swing and miss numbers, Murray jumped out to a great start in his professional debut. In 34 1/3 Low-A innings, Murray pitched to a 2.88 ERA and nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
Unfortunately for Murray and many other players, the right-hander was not able to build on his momentum in 2020 due to the cancelled season. Murray said that the Rays throwing program helped keep him ready, but his built-in teammates were an integral part of his progress in the time off.
“I’ve got two younger brothers who I help train in the offseason,” Murray said. “We would go to the indoor facility every night here in my home town and throw. It was a good time.”
The Murray Family influence on Jayden’s baseball career is not limited to just his brothers, as the 24-year-old attributes in part his phenomenal command to his first baseball coach, his father Ryan.
“Growing up my dad was always my baseball coach,” Murray said. “He was always pretty strict on the walks. He held me to a high standard with that. I feel like I have had the command my whole life.”
2021 was no exception for Murray, pitching to a ridiculous 1.6 BB/9–11th best in the Minor Leagues. Murray is more than a strike thrower though, and demonstrated that after his call up to Double-A. Murray saw his strikeout rate jump up to 30% with the Montgomery Biscuits, but at no expense of his command. Over Murray’s last six starts, he struck out 37 batters while walking just two.
“In High-A, I was working more on control with my off speed, making them consistent,” the right-hander said. “In Double-A I learned how to sequence my pitches better, the coaches there helped me with that and I think that helped a lot.”
The combinatination of Murray’s quality of stuff and the way he attacks hitters both improving was a big reason why he was so effective in 2021. Murray calls his fastball his favorite pitch, which sat in the 93-95 range, topping at 97 in the outing that I saw him. Murray’s slider flashes plus and is his best off speed pitch while his changeup is a solid third offering.
Several other Rays players have echoed a similar sentiment about the impact that the organization has had on their development. In addition to Murray, Tommy Romero, Tobias Meyers, and Taj Bradley were pitching prospects drafted in the fifth round or later who enjoyed major break throughs on the mound in 2021.
Now looking ahead at next season, Murray wants to continue building on what he was able to do in Double-A. As a pitcher who has no problem pounding the strike zone with already above average stuff, Murray knows that sequencing can make all the difference for him.
Jayden Murray is a player that the Rays organization has been excited about, and it won’t be long until Rays fans follow suit–if they haven’t already.