2011 MLB Draft – Rounds 3-5 wrap: Nationals gamble on Matt Purke

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Matt Purke, who was drafted 14th overall by the Rangers coming out of high school in 2009, went to the Nationals with the No. 96 pick as a draft-eligible sophomore today.  It was a big tumble for the left-hander, who was a candidate to go first overall before a rough season.

Purke agreed to a $6 million deal with the Rangers in 2009, only to have it vetoed by the commisioner’s office because of the team’s dire financial situation before it was sold.  At TCU, he went 16-0 with a 3.02 ERA as a freshman, striking out 142 batters in 116 1/3 innings.  However, he lost his best fastball this year before missing time with arm problems.

Purke looks like a true wild card now.  If his arm is sound, he’d probably be better off returning to TCU for his junior season, because he could definitely reemerge as a top-five pick next year.  If, on the other hand, he is worried about his arm, then he might want to take what money he can get while it’s still out there.  The suspicion, though, is that he’s going back to school.

Other thoughts:

– The Pirates made power bat Alex Dickerson the first pick of round three and announced him as a first baseman.  He was actually an outfielder at Indiana, but the move appeared inevitable.  Of course, Pedro Alvarez seems destined for first himself, but whether there will be a role for Dickerson can be worried about at a later date.

– Texas A&M right-hander John Stilson went to the Blue Jays at No. 108.  He was a likely first-rounder before his season ended due to a torn labrum.

– The Red Sox went for their second catcher of the draft when they picked Jordan Weems at No. 111.  He’s the younger brother of former Yankees and current Reds farmhand Chase Weems. In round four, they went with Cal State Fullerton’s Noe Ramirez, who has a below average fastball but terrific college results.

– The Giants selected USC’s Ricky Oropesa at No. 116 and announced him as a first baseman.  He was more highly regarded after hitting 20 homers as a sophomore.  This year, he slipped all of the way to seven.  His slugging percentage went from .578 as a freshman to .711 as a sophomore to .481 this year.

– As mentioned in that wrap, the Red Sox went into Yankees territory to grab their round two selection, Williams Jerez.  In round three, the Yankees came back and picked a New Hampshire right-hander named Jordan Cote with the 118th pick.  As a cold-weather player, he’s quite raw, but ESPN’s Keith Law liked him enough to rank him 85th in his top 100.

– Round 4 belonged to the Kyles. Kyle Simon (No. 125 to BAL), Kyle Smith (No. 126 to KC), Kylin Turnbull (No. 127 to WAS), Kyle McMillen (No. 141 to CWS) and Kyle McMyne (No. 145 to CIN) all went in a span of 21 picks.

– The Twins picked late-bloomer Matt Summers at No. 148.  He had an 8.51 ERA in four starts and 17 relief appearances for UC Irvine last year before becoming the Big West Pitcher of the Year this season.  If his velocity spike is for real, he could be a great find.

– Georgia Tech’s Matt Skole went to the Nationals at No. 157.  He hit 47 homers over the last three seasons, but he was arrested in February for DUI and suspended twice by Tech for violating team rules.  Like Anthony Rendon, he was announced by the team as a third baseman. He’ll probably stay there for now.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.