It's sure to frustrate the Denard Span for Alex Meyer trade haters. Meyer, 23, the Nats' 2011 1st Round pick who went to Minnesota last winter in the trade that brought Span to D.C. from the Twins, finished high on Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo's Arizona Fall League Top 20 List while no Washington Nationals' prospects made the Top 20 this year. Meyer finished his AFL stint with a (2-1) record, a 3.12 ERA, 3.82 FIP, seven walks (2.42 BB/9) and 28 Ks (9.69 K/9) in seven starts and 26 IP.
While neither of the Nats' starters in the so-called "finishing school" for the game's top prospects made the MLB.com minor league writers' Top 20, both showed up on Mr. Callis' list of the five players who would have been recognized if they kept going with their list.
Sammy Solis, 25, returned from Tommy John surgery to pitch at High-A Potomac this year. The 2010 2nd Round pick out of the University of San Diego finished the year (2-1) with a 3.43 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 19 walks (2.97 BB/9) and 40 Ks (6.24 K/9) in 12 starts (13 appearances) and 57 2/3 IP with the Nationals' Carolina League affiliate. Solis then made his third trip to the Arizona Fall League where he was (5-2) with a 2.17 ERA, 2.48 FIP, seven walks (2.17 BB/9) and 29 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 29 IP for the Mesa Solar Sox.
Here's what Mr. Callis had to say about the Nationals' left-hander who ended up no.6 on Baseball America's list of the Nationals' Top 10 Prospects for 2014:
"After missing all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery, he continued his comeback by leading the AFL in wins (five) and strikeouts (29 in 29 innings). Solis reached 95 mph with life on his fastball, showed the potential for a plus changeup and a solid breaking ball, and threw strikes."
Matt Purke, 23, was the Nats' 2011 3rd Round pick out of TCU where he put together one dominant season and one injury-plagued campaign pitching for the Horned Frogs. Purke returned from shoulder surgery last fall to pitch at both Low-A Hagerstown and Potomac this year. The left-hander was (1-1) with a 2.48 ERA, a 2.54 FIP, seven walks (2.17 BB/9) and 41 Ks (12.72 K/9) in six starts and 29 IP for the Suns. Purke was (5-3) in six starts with the P-Nats, with a 4.43 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 18 walks (2.66 BB/9) and 41 Ks (6.05 K/9) in 61 IP.
Purke's second trip to the AFL ended after six starts in which he was (3-1) with a 3.91 ERA, 3.03 FIP, nine walks (3.52 BB/9) and 17 Ks (6.65 K/9) in 29 IP. MLB.com's Mr. Callis said the former Texas Rangers' 1st Round pick was on his way back to being the pitcher he was when he went 14th overall in 2009:
"One scout estimated that Purke is 90 percent of the way back to becoming the guy who got a $6 million offer from the Rangers out of high school and went 16-0 to lead Texas Christian to the 2010 College World Series as a freshman. On the road back from shoulder problems, Purke hit 94 mph with his fastball, got outs with a sweeping slider and flashed a good changeup."
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo, of course, said his "rehab people" told him the same thing about Matt Purke when the general manager talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier last July.
"Matt Purke is one of our real bright guys that we have coming in the future. His velocity is creeping back up there. We're told by our rehab people that we're not going to see the true stuff of Matt Purke, pre-injury stuff, until next spring training."
It's shaping up to be a big year for both left-handers. Solis has been mentioned by Rizzo as a potential bullpen arm in an article by the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. The lefty was added to the Nats' 40-Man Roster tonight. Purke, who signed a 4-year/$4.15M major league deal after the Nationals selected him in the 3rd Round in 2011, with the 96th overall pick, will be in Spring Training with the big league team again this year.
The Nats gambled on the lefty's upside when they drafted and signed him in spite of the injury concerns. Is this the year that he's finally healthy and rewards the Nationals' faith in him and his own faith that taking the Nats' offer was the right thing to do?
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