"'A lot of the studs are coming back from injury are probably in Double A,'" Davey Johnson told the Washington Post's James Wagner last December. Sammy Solis and Matt Purke were two pitchers in particular the Nationals' skipper singled out. Though he was a little ambitious in predicting that they'd pitch for the Harrisburg Senators coming off Tommy John and shoulder surgery, respectively, Johnson identified Solis and Purke as two young pitchers to watch in 2013.
Washington's 70-year-old skipper explained that he thought the lack of major league-ready depth for the Nationals was an issue heading into his final season on the bench, but said the two left-handers were part of a new wave of pitching talent that was on its way up. Solis, who turned 25 in August, was (2-1) with a 3.43 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 19 walks (2.97 BB/9) and 40 Ks (6.24 K/9) in 13 games, 12 starts and 57 2/3 IP this season at High-A Potomac.
Purke, 23, started the year at Low-A Hagerstown where he 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 before he moved up to join Solis with the P-Nats. Purke was (5-3) in six starts at Potomac, with a 4.43 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 18 walks (2.66 BB/9) and 41 Ks (6.05 K/9) in 61 IP.
Baseball America had Solis 8th and Purke 9th on their yearly Top 10 prospects list last November. Solis, the Nationals' 2010 2nd Round pick, was up to no.6 overall after the 2013 campaign, second among left-handed pitchers behind only 22-year-old lefty Robbie Ray and fourth overall amongst pitchers with RHPs Lucas Giolito and A.J. Cole nos. 1 and 2 overall in the organization on BA's latest list.
Purke dropped out of Baseball America's Top 10 after two straight years on the list following his selection by the Nationals in the 3rd Round in 2011 two years after he went 14th overall to the Texas Rangers in 2009 but didn't sign.
Both pitchers were sent to the Arizona Fall League to get more work in after the minor league season. Nationals' Director of Player Development Doug Harris told MLB.com's Mike Feigen in a late October article on the Nats' prospects in the AFL, that having them continue to pitch late into the year would prepare them for the future.
"They had a nice break after the playoff run with Potomac,'" Harris explained, "'which freshened them up, so now they’re where they would be if they were coming down the home stretch of a regular season.'"
Solis finished his third stint in the so-called "finishing school" for the game's top prospects 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. Purke's second trip to the AFL ended after six starts over which the left-hander 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.
The Solar Sox clinched the AFL East division in the final regular season game on Thursday with Solis on the mound for five innings against the Glendale Desert Dogs in which he walked no one, struck out four, gave up six hits and allowed just one run in what ended up a 9-3 win.
As MLB.com writer Teddy Cahill noted in a preview of the final game of the fall, Solis, Purke and the rest of the Solar Sox' pitchers had the lowest ERA in the AFL as the, "club's four main starters -- right-hander Dallas Beeler and left-handers Matt Purke, Sammy Solis and Michael Roth -- combined for a 2.94 ERA." Beeler, 24, pitched at Double-A in the Chicago Cubs' organization in 2013. He was announced as Mesa's starter in the Championship Game:
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo mentioned Solis as a potential bullpen option in 2014 in an article by Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore this week as he ran down the depth chart of left-handers already in the organization. The Nats are reportedly in the market for left-handed relief help with the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore reporting on interest in Javier Lopez, Boone Logan and Oliver Perez already this winter, but Solis, the general manager said, "could go to the bullpen if he had to, if you needed him to."
The Nationals have shown a willingness to bring pitchers up from Double-A to the majors. Just this season, Nathan Karns, Taylor Jordan and lefty reliever Ian Krol all skipped Syracuse on their way to D.C.
Will Solis and Purke both start the 2014 campaign at Harrisburg?
No word yet on which Nationals' prospects will take the field behind Beeler this afternoon in the AFL Championship. The MLB Network is broadcast the game live at 3:00 PM EST. Nats' outfield prospect Steven Souza thinks you should watch:
Don't forget to check the AFL Championship game out on MLB network at 1 o clock Arizona Time tomorrow. Solar Sox are in the Championship!— Steven Souza Jr. (@StevenSouzaJR) November 16, 2013
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- Nationals AFL Update: Sammy Solis Earns Win; Mesa Solar Sox In AFL Championship
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- Wire Taps: NL Cy Young + Nationals GM Meetings Rumors