[ed. note - "Every Friday morning throughout this season, assuming that they will continue to have us, Federal Baseball will be writing a post over at MASNSports.com's Nationals Buzz, "... as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest," writers to their site. I substituted the word "writers" for "bloggers" there. All opinions expressed are our own... Our first post of the season follows... You can read the entire post HERE or through the link included below."]:
Four of Washington's Minor League affiliates started their respective 2014 campaigns on Thursday night. There are interesting prospects to follow throughout the Nationals' organization, so we decided to take a look at five players we'll be following closely this season on MiLB.tv or on trips to minor league parks.
First on the list, Matt Purke.
Matt Purke: Taken 14th overall by the Texas Rangers in 2009, Purke didn't sign, choosing instead to attend Texas Christian University where the left-hander put together an impressive freshman campaign. Purke was (16-0) with 142 K's (10.99 K/9) and 34 BB (2.63 BB/9) in 20 games and 116.1 IP for TCU, but he dealt with a shoulder injury in his sophomore season which limited him to just 11 starts and 52.2 IP in which the southpaw was (5-1) with a 1.71 ERA, .187 BAA, 61 K's (10.42 K/9) and 20 walks (3.42 BB/9).
The Nationals drafted Purke in the third round of the 2011 Draft, 96th overall, and gave him a 4-year/$4.15M major league deal.
The shoulder issues persisted, however, so he finally had shoulder surgery in late 2012. Purke returned to action last summer, going (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 Low-A Hagerstown Suns before he moved up to High-A Potomac, where he was (5-3) in six starts for the P-Nats, posting a 4.43 ERA, a 3.58 FIP, 18 walks (2.66 BB/9) and 41 Ks (6.05 K/9) in 61 IP.
He impressed in Spring Training and was assigned to Double-A Harrisburg. He's made just 21 starts since the Nationals drafted him. There's talk in scouting circles that his ceiling is now as a reliever in the majors. It's going to be a big season for Purke to show if the investment they Nats made and the risk they took will start to pay off.
Who else is on our watchlist?
• Read the entire FBB Prospects Watchlist over at MASNSports.com: