Matt Purke

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.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?

Jose Bautista had a courtside view of Saturday night’s epic NBA Slam Dunk Contest

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Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …

Its a wrap!!! #BackToBack #SlamDunk #Champion @zachlavine8 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

A video posted by Jose Bautista (@joeybats19) on

That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …

Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.