BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 20: General Manager Mike Rizzo of the Washington Nationals talks to the media before the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
With the 96th pick in the 3rd Round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Washington Nationals selected Texas Christian University lefty Matthew Purke, a one-time Texas Rangers' 1st Round pick selected 14th overall in '09 who never signed, opting for college instead. The 6'4'', 180lb left-hander was (16-0) in 20 games and 18 starts during his first year as a Horned Frog in 2010, surrendering 34 walks (2.63 BB/9) and striking out 142 batters (10.99 K/9) in 116.1 IP. In his sophomore year, however, Purke experienced shoulder issues which limited him to just 11 starts and 52.2 IP in 2011 in which he was (5-1) with 20 walks (3.42 BB/9) and 60 K's (10.25 K/9).
Though he'd entered the season as a potential first-rounder, the shoulder issues caused Purke's stock to drop, and the Nationals gambled (with their fourth pick of the draft) that they could convince the left-hander to sign rather than return to school and try for a bigger bonus if he can get selected in the 1st Round in 2012...
"With the signability situation with Purke and some of the health issues that he had," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo explained in an interview after the Draft on 106.7 the FAN's The Mike Rizzo Show with Overtime's Bill Rohland, "With Purke sitting there in the third round pick for us at [no.96) which is a protected pick, meaning that if he doesn't sign we get that pick again next year, we felt it was time to roll the dice on Purke, watch him in the Cape Cod League, he's going to go pitch in the Cape, and we're going to monitor, see if he's healthy and see what his value is on the market."
That was the last anyone heard from Purke until he turned up at Nats Park during the last homestand with both the Washington Times' Amanda Comak (@acomak) and CSN Washington/NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) spotting him in the clubhouse after the game which he'd watched, "...with GM Mike Rizzo from the owners seats," before he, "... was in the clubhouse postgame as well," as Ms. Comak reported via the Twitter.
Purke never turned up in the Cape Cod League box scores, however, prompting a Baseball America reader to ask BA writer Jim Callis what he'd heard in Monday afternoon's, "Ask BA" chat in which Mr. Callis wrote that Purke, "... has decided to spend the summer working out at home in the Houston area,":
"Washington will have to determine what it's willing to pay Purke based on workouts and not extended game action. With four weeks remaining before the Aug. 15 deadline, I have no great sense as to whether he'll turn pro or return to the Horned Frogs."
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo, whose front office has outspent the league in draft bonuses in each of the last two seasons, told 106.7 the Fan's Bill Rohlan that the Nats were, "...going to make a great effort to get [Purke] signed," and added that if the Nationals sign all of their top picks (including Purke, 3B Anthony Rendon, taken 6th overall, RHP Alex Meyer, taken 23rd and OF Brian Goodwin, the 34th pick), "...then we feel that we really had probably the most impactful draft that I've ever been associated with."
Having suffered an injury that cost him fall two rounds from where he was selected in 2009, will Purke gamble and go back to college, or will the Washington Nationals make it worth it for him to turn pro? Only Purke his agent and family know. Less than a month from now, or maybe sooner, NatsTown will find out...