Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Matthew Purke is looking good..


Purke is finally showing signs of life. Photo AP/Nati Harnik

Purke is finally showing signs of life. Photo AP/Nati Harnik

I’ll freely admit it: after two straight injury plagued seasons, I thought the Nats had made a mistake with the Matthew Purke pick.  I’ve even used the “B” word from time to time (“B” as in “Bust”).  Yes he was “only” a third round pick, and yes it isn’t my money that paid him.  But giving him a Major League Deal and a 40-man slot was a roster limiting move at the time and still remains so (Purke was the sole 40-man roster member in the South Atlantic League at the season’s start).

However, what Purke is doing so far in Hagerstown has been, well, impressive.  His latest start on 6/28 probably was his most dominant of the year, going 6 innings, giving up just 1 hit and zero walks while striking out 8.  On the year in Low-A he now has 6 starts, has thrown 29 innings and has 41 strikeouts to just 7 walks in that time.  Those numbers are good for a 2.48 ERA and a 1.10 whip.

Yes, he’s “old” for the level (at the season’s start he was about in the 75% percentile in terms of age for the level).  And yes he’s “experienced” for the level, being now a third year pro and having two college years under his belt when drafted.  But (as we all know) he’s been plagued with injuries and has now missed parts of four straight seasons with various ailments (his 2nd college season, his draft year, most of 2012).   In fact, June 28th was just his 9th professional start.

Nonetheless, its great to see him finally healthy and finally putting together the kind of dominant starts that one would expect from a guy who signed a $4M deal.  I look forward to him getting promoted up to High-A (perhaps after the all-star break) and continuing his trek back to the majors.  If the Nats could count on him to continue being a high-end prospect and a potential future starter for this team, that would go a long way towards roster stability in the coming years.

Written by Todd Boss

July 1st, 2013 at 8:08 am

Posted in Minor League Pitching

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12 Responses to 'Matthew Purke is looking good..'

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  1. Purke makes up for Solis being out again–that’s the dude we should be worried about.

    Rizzo does seem to have decent luck rolling the dice on injured guys trying to score bargains. Rendon and Mattheus have worked out great, Garcia was a find that will look even better if he is able to fully return during the second half this year, Purke is now coming along and hopefully we’ll see Giolito strutting his stuff by this time next year.

    The only bad part is we have all these fine young pitching prospects but no more even semi-elite position player prospects to bolster the offense behind them.


    1 Jul 13 at 9:17 am

  2. I can’t remember the update on Solis but it didn’t seem like anything to be worried about when I read it. Of course now I look him up and he hasn’t pitched in a month … yeah that is worrisome.

    I wonder if a few GMs should be kicking themselves for passing on Rendon because of his injuries. That being said, the 2011 draft already looks stacked and its only a couple years after. The 5 guys ahead of Rendon were Cole, Hultzen, Bauer, Bundy, and Starling. I mean, that’s 5 big-time names.

    Rizzo doesn’t like to focus on bats in the draft. And perhaps its hard to blame him; I think its easier to buy Bats on the FA market than it is pitching. So you develop a gazillion arms, flip them for what you need, keep a few and buy on the FA market. Works for me. And it seems to be what he’s done lately (Werth, LaRoche, Suzuki, Span all FAs or acquired with prospects).

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 13 at 10:31 am

  3. Any velocity reports from Purke? I remember reading at Luke’s Nationals Prospects site a few weeks ago that he was hearing lackluster reports on him. I am not sure whether to believe the stats from Purke, for the caveats that you mention, but you are right: just watching him be able to take the mound every five days is a big plus. I think that you told me this once, but when do they have to keep him on the 25 man roster, 2014 or 2015?

    Keith Law published a piece on Kyle Zimmer, but it also had some decent things to say about AJ Cole and Robbie Ray. Link here: Cole: looked good but is about <i.'a pitch and a half away from a starter's arsenal. He thinks that his curveball has regressed since HS, and his changeup is weak. For Ray, he was ‘showing a four-pitch arsenal with nothing plus’ , but ‘speeding up the delivery or extending his stride might tap into it enough to make him a solid fourth or fifth starter in the majors at some point.

    For Michael Taylor, less praise: ‘he hasn’t gained a pound since high school and was blown up by velocity all night. He needs to get a lot stronger before he can regain any sort of prospect status


    1 Jul 13 at 10:57 am

  4. Btw, would you trade Rendon for any of those 2011 draftees that you mention? Maybe Cole, but only maybe, right? I think that the only guy in the whole draft that I’d definitely trade him for would be Jose Fernandez. Anyone else, even Archie Bradley, is a tough one.


    1 Jul 13 at 11:04 am

  5. I’d consider Rendon for Bundy. Maybe Cole. I always though Hultzen was overrated. We now know that Bauer may be a clubhouse cancer at age 22. Starling? who knows. Fernandez looks like a steal.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 13 at 12:27 pm

  6. Purke velocity: no idea. I’ve looked in Hagerstown Sun gamers and nothing. Looking up my Options Status xls, Purke burned an option in 2012 and again this year obviously, he’ll burn his 3rd and 4th 2014 and 2015, so the Nats really don’t have a decision to make until spring 2016. He’ll get a 4th option by virtue of his immediate 40-man deal putting him on the active roster so quickly as a pro (ala why Perry got a 4th option this year).

    I missed the KLaw article; this damn conversion away from Google Reader is killing me. I’m not getting RSS feeds of Law and some other stuff. Having just read it, all I can say is that I hope it was small sample sizes for both guys. If Ray turned into Detwiler 2.0 i’d be happy. If Solis turned into Detwiler 2.0 I’d be happy. But i think we need Cole to be higher ceiling.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 13 at 12:31 pm


    Purke Promoted to Potomac (lots of “p” words there). I did not think this move would happen so quickly, but it is the right move for Purke professionally.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 13 at 4:19 pm

  8. And Purke goes up to Potomac now. Nice foreshadowing Todd!

    I would be less concerned with the velocity at this stage than the results. He is still “rehabbing” and building arm strength. His last 2 starts he has gone a combined 11 innings and has a 17/1 K/BB rate. Hopefully he keeps it up in high A.


    1 Jul 13 at 4:21 pm

  9. Bdrube, Giolito is on the GCL roster. I’m thinking he isn’t far from pitching there. He was throwing off a mound all the way back on May 1st so he is due to get going soon.


    1 Jul 13 at 4:26 pm

  10. I saw that too. And he’s listed as “active!” Yeah that’d be great to see him throwing.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 13 at 4:37 pm

  11. The usual turn around on TJ surgery for the organization is 1 year but that has been 1 year until returning to the majors. Zim and Stras were rehabbing 5-6 starts prior to that so that is about a 5 week period. Giolito had surgery August 14th I think. That would put him in game action roughly in a week or so.


    1 Jul 13 at 4:44 pm

  12. That’s cool on Giolito. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that when they finally unleash him he is everything he was advertised to be.


    1 Jul 13 at 6:01 pm

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