Why Kyler Murray is picking baseball over football, and what to expect from the Heisman winner on the diamond

Oklahoma's two-sport star Kyler Murray is having himself quite a year.

On Saturday night in New York, Murray was awarded the 2018 Heisman Trophy, becoming the second consecutive Oklahoma quarterback to win the award, following in the footsteps of last year's winner, Baker Mayfield. Just a few months before in June, Murray was drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the No. 9 pick of the 2018 MLB Draft. He signed a $4.66 million signing bonus with his MLB contract and is planning to report to Arizona next spring to begin his professional baseball career.

Murray, the nephew of former Giants outfielder Calvin Murray and the son of former Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray, was an outfielder on Oklahoma's baseball team for two seasons. He finished with a slash line of .261/.381/.466 and had 10 home runs, 53 RBI and 22 stolen bases. During the 2017 summer, Murray played 16 games for the Harwich Mariners of the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. He collected two doubles and one home run, while stealing four bases.

Last week, even though Murray said that he thinks he could play in the NFL and would love to play both sports professionally, he's still preparing to move on with his baseball career and give up football after this season. Murray and Oklahoma face top-ranked Alabama in the Orange Bowl (a College Football Playoff semifinal) on Dec. 29.

"I feel like I can play in the NFL, but as far giving [football] up, as of now, yeah, that's the plan," Murray told reporters last Monday.

Murray is represented by super agent Scott Boras, whose clientele includes A's third baseman Matt Chapman and top free-agent Bryce Harper.

"Kyler has agreed and the A's agreed to a baseball contract that gave him permission to play college football through the end of the collegiate season," Boras told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "After that, he is under contract to play baseball. That is not a determination to make. It's already done."

If Murray continues to pursue baseball, he could be on track to become the third Heisman winner to play in the Majors, following in the footsteps of 1985 Heisman winner Bo Jackson and 1952 winner Vic Janowicz. 

Generally speaking, it does make more sense for Murray to choose baseball and I promise I'm not just saying that because I'm a baseball writer. Murray can definitely make more money (in case you already forgot, Boras is his agent) playing in Major League Baseball and he'll have career longevity playing pro ball. Plus, he should have an easier time marketing himself in baseball versus football because he's so dynamic on the diamond.

Now let's take a closer look at Murray, the baseball player.

  • He's changed his swing for the better, adding a leg kick to generate more power

In 2017, he hit leadoff in limited action and played left field at Oklahoma. In 2018, Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson moved him to center so he could get better reads off the bat, and moved him to the cleanup spot.

"His first year [at OU], I think he had more of a spread-out, slap, leadoff-type approach," Chris Reilly, the Oakland A's scout who drafted him, told SB Nation. "His second year they stood him up a little bit, gave him a leg kick, gave him a little more fluidity, and allowed his athleticism to impact the baseball."

  • His speed and athleticism are impressive, but he definitely needs more reps playing center field after only playing shortstop in high school

Josh Herzenberg, a former scout for the Dodgers in Texas when Murray was at Allen High School just north of Dallas, told SB Nation that his first impression was "elite, top-of-the-scale athleticism. I'm not sure I've seen a better athlete on a baseball field, ever."

  • Throwing arm (he hits and throws right-handed) needs to get stronger

He wasn't drafted for his throwing arm, but it's still worth noting that it needs some work. A scouting report in Baseball America says Murray "shows a 30 arm right now [the low end of the 20-80 scale], but he doesn't get to work on his throwing arm for baseball because he is muscled up for football."

"He didn't take infield/out(field) with us at all last year," Johnson told the Oklahoman. "He's going to get better and better with throwing a baseball the more he does it. We didn't think it was a big deal because he was throwing the football so much."

We're definitely going to be keeping an eye out for Murray come spring training. And it's going to be a lot of fun to watch as his baseball career progresses. 

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