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Minor league spotlight: Matt Purke

Dec 1, 2013, 12:56 PM EDT

Photo by the Associated Press Photo by the Associated Press

Age on Opening Day 2014: 23

How acquired: Draft (3rd round), June 2011

Position: Starting pitcher

Prospect Rank: N/A

2013 Team/Level: Hagerstown Suns (Single-A), Potomac Nationals (Single-A), Mesa Solar Sox (AFL)

2013 Stats: 18 G, 6-4, 3.80 ERA, 90.0 IP, 92 H, 45 R, 38 ER, 6 HR, 25 BB, 82 SO, 5 HBP, 10 WP, 1.300 WHIP (two teams)

AFL Stats: 6 G, 3-1, 3.91 ERA, 23.0 IP, 20 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 9 BB, 17 SO, 1.260 WHIP

2013 Analysis: Matt Purke finally stayed healthy enough to pitch over 100 innings in a professional season this year after dealing with a variety of injuries since joining the Nats organization in 2011. He appeared in just three games in a disappointing 2012, but managed 24 stretched across three different teams this time around. Purke was at his best early in the year at Low-A Hagerstown. The lefty made six starts with the Suns before getting a promotion and recorded a 2.48 ERA through 29 innings pitched. He struck out 41 batters along the way to post a 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

Purke was quickly sent to Potomac where he would find trouble. In 12 starts with the P-Nats, Purke’s ERA jumped to 4.43 as he lost his command. In 61 innings with Potomac he hit four batters with balls and threw nine wild pitches. Purke improved on those numbers in the Arizona Fall League and left with a 3-1 record through six starts. Purke went 9-5 with a 3.82 ERA combined across stints with three teams. That’s not spectacular, but a solid season for the 23-year-old given all it took for him to get healthy.

2014 Outlook: 2014 will be a big year for Purke who last season flashed the potential that once made him a first round pick of the Texas Rangers. Injuries and merely decent numbers have caused his stock to drop rather dramatically. Purke was left off Baseball America’s list of the top ten prospects in the organization last month, ranking behind Nathan Karns (7.50 ERA with Nats in 2013) and Jake Johansen, the team’s second round pick in the 2013 draft. Nothing against either of those players, but they took over spots Purke once held.

Because Purke had problems with High-A batters at Hagerstown, it’s possible he returns there for the beginning of 2014. Then again, his showing in the AFL would seem to prove he’s ready for the competition in Double-A. Where Purke starts will likely have to do with how the Nats fill out their rotation at the big league level, and the domino effect that creates. If an in-house candidate such as Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan makes the roster, Purke could line up to join Harrisburg’s rotation. But an influx of new names could push Roark and Jordan back to Syracuse, and everyone else in their organization another step down accordingly.

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 1, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Good lefty arms are at a premium. Whether he’s a reliever or starter will depend on his 2014 progress.

  2. therealjohnc - Dec 1, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    Because Purke had problems with High-A batters at Hagerstown

    Chase means Potomac here.

    Purke is in Taylor Jordan position this year – he could be the guy who comes out of nowhere (he didn’t start there, but he’s there now) and actually puts himself on the map for the Nationals. He has the pedigree and the upside. But that’s not something the Nationals can count on at this point. It’s absolutely right to say that this is a big year for him; I hope he makes it.

  3. Section 222 - Dec 1, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    IIRC, Purke was a guy they lured with first draft pick money after he fell to a later round because of his injury history in college. But he was supposedly a top of the rotation type guy who would advance quickly once healthy. He’s been a disappointment thus far, an object lesson in don’t expect too much from your prospects. I’m not expecting much from him this year or next.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Dec 1, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      I disagree. With his record of injuries — and recent recovery of health — what he accomplished last year — at three levels, most important the AFL — is very significant. I think he will be at AA at least half of the season — and possibly in DC at the end of the season. (They’ll burn an option anyway when they send him down after ST so nothing is lost by bringing him for a look-see.)

      • Section 222 - Dec 1, 2013 at 11:03 PM

        I certainly hope you’re right, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

  4. David Proctor - Dec 1, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    I think Purke profiles as a lefty reliever. While Solis could spend some time in the pen, I see him as a starter long-term. I think Purke stays in the pen.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 1, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      David, a few scouts agree with you if Purke can’t develop a 3rd “+” pitch.

      • Theophilus T.S. - Dec 1, 2013 at 9:22 PM

        The kid’s had one mostly-full season of professional ball. Let’s not be impatient for the development of a “third+ pitch.” As I recall Zimmermann didn’t have one until he’d spent a year in the majors.

  5. David Proctor - Dec 1, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    The winter meetings are a week from tomorrow. Wonder if we start getting some hints about what Mike Rizzo’s plans are.

  6. trom1 - Dec 1, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    What is the option situation with Mr. Purke?

    • sjm308 - Dec 1, 2013 at 10:01 PM

      trom1: I could easily be wrong but every time they sent him down, he used an option.
      Because of his injury situation, he was granted an additional option but this will be his last option

  7. trochlis318 - Dec 1, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    anyone see that the nats were interested in furcal? Thought it was interesting, furcal said that he wanted to play for a contender and listed the nats as a team interested in him, could we see him as a better lombo, and lombo out the door?

    • David Proctor - Dec 1, 2013 at 10:52 PM

      Well Lombo is about the same as him by OPS and Lombo is much cheaper. Doubt we’re interested.

      • trochlis318 - Dec 1, 2013 at 11:09 PM

        lombo doesn’t offer the clubhouse presence that furcal does as well as furcal is projected to do better offensivly as well as a backup SS incase desi goes down (no espi required)

  8. David Proctor - Dec 1, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    They’re the same offensively and Lombo is more important to the clubhouse at this point than Furcal would be

    • trochlis318 - Dec 2, 2013 at 12:15 AM

      G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR

      97 441 6 51 36 9 8.3 % 11.9 % .112 .282 .258 .324 .370 .308 93 0.1 -3.6 2.6 1.4

      70 314 3 33 25 6 4.9 % 11.2 % .098 .290 .265 .306 .363 .295 85 -0.4 -5.8 0.8 0.5

      Without revealing the names, which is the better player and who do you think it is?

  9. NatsLady - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:32 AM

    Article on teams’ 2013 “marginal” players’ contributions. Well, our marginal starting pitchers were good. Bench was the worst in baseball, and marginal relievers not good either.

    http://www.rotoworld.com/headlines/nfl/277980/football-headlines?r=1

    • NatsLady - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:34 AM

      Sorry. This article amused me because it advised you not to cut A-Rod from your fantasy (football) fantasy team. A-Rod being Aaron Rodgers–I wonder if he knows.

  10. unkyd59 - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    Thoughts?

    http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/ot-tigers-trade-doug-fister-nats

    No starters mentioned leaving…

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