Name: Matt Purke
Date of Birth: July 17, 1990
Purke was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2011. He was the 6th selection of the 3rd Round (#96 overall) out of Texas Christian University (Ft. Worth, TX). Purke is not the first player to come out of TCU, joining current MLB pitchers Andrew Cashner (Cubs) and Jake Arrieta (Orioles), among others.
Purke is, however, a unique case. He was first drafted out of high school back in 2009. Players routinely are taken out of high school, only to follow through with their collegiate commitments before re-entering the draft again later. Few of these players are selected in the 1st Round out of high school, however, only to fall later in the draft after their college careers. Purke was the 14th overall selection in 2009 – the same year the Nationals took both Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen in the 1st Round – by the Texas Rangers. An agreement was in place between the Rangers and Purke, including a $6 Million signing bonus. However, Major League Baseball was controlling the financial state of the Rangers at the time and vetoed the deal. The two sides failed to reach another agreement before the deadline day passed and Purke continued on to TCU.
After signing late in the summer (for a bonus of $2.75 Million), Purke failed to make any appearances for any of Washington’s minor league affiliates before the season concluded. The team sent him to the Arizona Fall League in order to get some work in, and he ultimately made his professional debut in the prospect-laden league. Purke made 7 appearances, including one start, totaling 7.1 innings of work. He struck out 5, walked 3, and was generally hit pretty hard – allowing 11 earned runs for an ERA of 13.50.
Top Prospect Rankings
Baseball America (Top 10): 7th
MLB.com (Top 10): Unranked
FanGraphs (Top 15): 6th
Seedlings to Stars (MLB Top 100): Unranked
DoD Editor Aaron Somers (Top 15): 4th
DoD Staff Writer Michael Natelli (Top 15): 9th
DoD Staff Writer Andrew Flax (Top 15): 7th
Courtesy of Marc Hulet at FanGraphs:
Purke has suffered through a variety of well-documented ailments (back, shoulder, blisters) and velocity loss (down to 82-85 MPH in some games). When he’s on, though, he’s a southpaw that possesses an above average 90-95 MPH fastball. He rounds out his repertoire with a good slider and a changeup. Durability questions will continue to haunt Purke until he can string together a number of dominating starts.
Generally speaking, Purke is considered a superior talent with the potential of being a top of the rotation starter. He possesses three solid pitches and a strong feel for the strike zone by most accounts. He also seems to have the right attitude, as evidenced by the numerous interviews that Purke gave with members of the Washington media after signing last summer. Purke was up front with the organization on his injury past, encouraged them to run as many tests as needed while undergoing his physical, and was anxious to do whatever he could to prove to the organization that he was healthy and ready to begin his professional career.
The injury history is a concern, certainly. Purke dealt with trouble in his back, shoulder, and with blisters at various points in his collegiate career. Those same injury concerns are the key reason why he fell to the 3rd Round, rather than being selected atop the Draft once again. He is going to need to show he can stay healthy to justify the team’s investment in him.
2012 and Beyond Expectations
Pegging where Purke will start the 2012 season is no easy task considering he had essentially a lost 2011 season and didn’t make his professional debut until the Fall. In all likelihood, Washington will probably start him off slow, perhaps in High-A. Presumably the team will want to see him prove his health against live competition before they consider moving him higher in their minor league ranks. How he responds this season will likely go a long way towards determining how aggressively the organization plans on moving him through the minor leagues. With an early guess, I wouldn’t expect to see him in Washington before the end of the 2013 season at the absolute earliest.