Murton narrowly beat out second baseman and fellow Georgia Tech alumnus Eric Patterson to earn the award, which takes into account batting average, power, on-base percentage, walks and strikeouts, and overall advancement through the organization.
“Matt has had a great season and appears to be on his way to having a great career,” Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita said. “He has a great work ethic and a great passion for the game. Those are two qualities that can't be taught. He’s a gamer.”
Murton will turn 24 on Oct. 3, the date Arizona Fall League play is scheduled to begin. Both he and Patterson will be present in the Fall League this season.
Murton was a sandwich first round pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2003 and spent last season in the Class Advanced-A Florida State League between Sarasota and Daytona, hitting a combined .292 with the two clubs in 126 games.
This season, Murton’s journey to the majors began at West Tenn, where he opened the year with a 15-game hitting streak and went on to bat .342 in 78 games with the Diamond Jaxx.
On the night of July 7, following the big league club’s eighth straight loss, Murton was promoted to Chicago along with fellow West Tenn outfielder Adam Greenberg. He made his major league debut the following night against the Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium, going 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and an RBI in a 9-6 Cubs victory.
In 36 games with the Cubs, Murton has batted .322 (29-for-90) with four homers, two doubles, two triples and nine RBIs.
“First of all, I’m very thankful for the opportunity here in Chicago,” a humble Murton told Inside The Ivy on Wednesday. “This organization and all of my teammates have been nothing but good to me. The big thing is to go out and get comfortable with the atmosphere here. Slowly but surely, I am.”
Murton made considerable strides considering this was just his second year with a full-season minor league club. He spent his rookie season with Class-A Lowell of the short-season New York-Penn League before moving up to the Florida State League in 2004. The Cubs acquired Murton from the Red Sox when they landed Nomar Garciaparra at the trading deadline a year ago.
“I’m starting to get more playing time here,” said Murton, who started his fifth consecutive game in left field during the Cubs’ 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, who clinched the NL Central for the fourth time in six years on Thursday night at Wrigley Field. “Really, I’m just trying to help my team win. There really are no expectations as far as how often I expect to start. I come in every day hoping I’m in the lineup. I don’t expect to be every day, but I’m thankful for every opportunity regardless.”
“I’m just trying to take advantage of it all and let the chips fall where they may,” Murton said.
Going from the ranks of Class-A to the major leagues all in one year can become a major rush for anyone. But for Murton, it's business as usual.
“It is hard to believe at times,” Murton admitted. “But I try to keep my focus off of that. My overall goal is to be the most complete baseball player I can. I’m thankful for the opportunity, but in the long run guys not only want to get here; they want to stick around and be successful.”
“For me, nothing has changed,” Murton added. “I’m still working on the same things I always have been, like getting as comfortable as I can, getting more at-bats, and working on my swing.”
Runner-up to Murton in this year’s Inside The Ivy Position Prospect and Hitter of the Year award was Patterson, who hit a combined .325 between Class-A Peoria and West Tenn in the regular season. Patterson finished the regular season with the Midwest League’s best batting average (.333) in 110 games with the Chiefs.
Murton has hit .339 in a combined 123 games between West Tenn, Triple-A Iowa and Chicago. He has hit a combined 13 home runs, as has Patterson. Murton has driven in 58 runs; Patterson has driven in 74 (post-season included). Both have posted plus-.400 on-base percentages this season.
“Eric has also had a great season from start to finish,” said Fleita, in his sixth year as Player Development Director. “He has a feel for what he is capable of doing. He makes contact; hits to all sides of the field; can bunt; fields his position well; runs the bases well; and plays hard.”
Inside The Ivy congratulates both Murton and Patterson on a remarkable season in 2005.