The Nationals drafted TCU left-handed pitcher Matt Purke in the third round with the 96th overall pick, taking one of the most talented players in the entire draft, but one who dropped in the draft because of recent concerns about the health of his shoulder and the cost to sign him.
As late as two months ago, Purke, who stadns 6 feet, 4 inches, was considered potentially one of the top five choices in the draft, and maybe a candidate to become the first pick overall. In 2009, the Texas Rangers drafted him 14th overall out of high school, but Purke – who is not, like the first three Nationals draft picks, represented by Scott Boras – turned down a $4 million signing bonus to attend TCU.
This season, Purke was diagnosed with shoulder bursitis and was limited to only 11 starts. In 52 2/3 innings, Purke struck out 61 batters and walked 20, posting a 1.71 ERA. At his full health, Purke threw between 91 and 94 miles per hour, and his best pitch is his slider, which he pairs with a strong changeup. He’s been compared most often to Phillies lefty Cole Hamels.
The Nationals also looked past medical concerns with Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, their first pick and the sixth overall pick in the draft. General Manager Mike Rizzo expressed confidence that Rendon’s previous ankle surgery and currently hurt shoulder will not hinder his development.
The Nationals took another lefty in the fourth round, Kylin Turnbull of Santa Barbara Community College.
UPDATE, 2:11: In the fifth round, the Nationals took power-hitting thrid baseman Matt Skole with the 157th overall pick. Skole, whos’ 6-4, 230 pounds, hit .348/.445/.545 this season with 10 home runs in 233 at-bats.