Owen Murphy signs his contract at Truist Park on July 23, 2022. (Photo by Matthew Grimes/Atlanta Braves)

Updated July 25, 2022

Owen Murphy’s first paycheck will be a big one. On July 23 the 18-year-old Riverside resident and recent graduate of Riverside Brookfield High School signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves that includes a reported $2.56 million signing bonus. Murphy, who never before has had a paying job and had been getting by on a $20 a week allowance, flew to Atlanta on Saturday and signed his contract at Truist Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves.

On July 17 the Braves picked Murphy, a right-handed pitcher, with the 20th pick in the first round of the MLB draft. After taking in a Braves game Saturday evening Murphy traveled to the Braves minor league facility in Sarasota, Florida on Sunday to begin his career as a professional baseball player. Later this summer he will be assigned to a minor league team.

Under major league rules each team has a certain sum of money to use on bonuses for draft picks. Each pick in the first two rounds is assigned a so-called slot amount. This year the slot amount for the 20th pick in the draft in $3.41 million. By signing Murphy for $850,000 less than his slot value the Braves can use the savings to offer above slot bonuses to some of their other draft picks or use the bonus money on later round picks. Murphy was apparently willing to sign for an under slot amount because he was drafted higher than he was expected to go. The signing bonus is the lowest it can be under Major League rules. Players who undergo medical testing at the MLB draft combine, as Murphy did last month in San Diego, cannot be signed for less than 75 percent of their slot amount.

The Braves really liked Murphy’s athleticism. In addition to pitching Murphy was a standout shortstop and hitter for RBHS and played three years of varsity football as a starting quarterback and wide receiver.

“He’s a big time strike thrower, really athletic, clean delivery with the makings of plus secondary stuff so we’re really excited about him and his future,” said Dana Brown, the Braves head of scouting, at a press conference after the first round of the draft.

Brown said that the Braves have found that athletic pitchers are more likely to be successful and less likely to get injured.

“We’ve found that a lot of the misses with high school arms are when they are not athletic and they don’t throw strikes,” Brown said.

Brown said Murphy’s fastball has been timed at up to 96 miles per hour. Murphy consistently throws his fastball in the low 90’s with great movement.

Murphy is walking away from a baseball scholarship to Notre Dame to play professional baseball immediately. He is passionate about baseball and wanted to play at the highest level as quickly as possible. The head coach and pitching coach at Notre Dame that recruited Murphy, who committed to Notre Dame as a high school sophomore, left Notre Dame this summer to accept jobs at Florida State University.

The only twinge of disappointment for Murphy is that the Braves are insisting that he only be used as a pitcher. Murphy loves to hit. He had hoped to be allowed to hit and play the infield in the minor leagues. This season Murphy set school records with a .578 batting average for RBHS and belted 18 home runs and drove in 75 runs in 36 games. He also holds career records at RBHS in batting, (.470,) RBIs (130) and home runs (30).

But scouts valued his arm more than his bat. Brown said that Murphy would have likely been a fourth or fifth round draft pick as an infielder.

“He loves baseball, first and foremost,” Brown said. “But he knew going in that he was a better pitcher and more of a prospect as a pitcher, he knew his path to the big leagues was quicker as pitcher so he embraced that and he was excited about it and we feel like we got a good one.”

Last summer Murphy impressed major league scouts at exposure camps where top high school players are invited and his prospects began to soar as he outperformed players who had been ranked higher than he had been.

“We evaluate these guys in the summer and he had the best stats of any of the pitchers,” Brown said. “His walk rate, his strike out rate, he was up at the top of the chart for all those guys and in the summer, you face the best talent.”