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.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.