Purke Shows Savvy, Stuff

HOUSTON—Lefthander Matt Purke of Klein (Texas) High ranked as BA’s third-best high school prospect coming into the season.  A probable first-round selection in the June draft, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Texas Christian signee faced rival Collins High of Klein at home on March 31.

At the game to observe Purke was Greg Perkin, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 16th-round choice in the 1999 draft and the nephew of BA bird dog Dave Perkin. A righthander, Perkin pitched in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system for four years from 1999 through 2002 and will do some bird-dogging to help BA this spring. Perkin joined approximately 20 scouts in viewing Purke, who in seven innings of work allowed four hits, two walks and struck out eight while delivering 94 pitches. Purke recorded a no-decision in the extra-inning contest.  

Greg Perkin offered these insights about the performance:

Purke throws a heavy, sinking fastball, which dipped below 90 mph only twice during the evening.  His four-seamer peaked at 95 in the third inning and generally registered between 91 and 94. Admirably, he still touched 94 in the seventh inning.

His most impressive pitch is his curveball, which displays sharp 2-to-7 break and ranges from 74-77 mph. Purke shows advanced savvy for a youngster. He has the ability and instinct to know when to throw the curve for a strike and when to offer it as a temptation.

Purke delivers the ball from a three-quarters arm slot, and his fluid arm action meshes well with his stuff.  In addition, Purke is a quality athlete who runs and hits well and his lanky build is extremely projectable. However, it should be noted that his delivery is almost completely generated from his upper body. This could be bad news, for it may cause an arm injury due to overcompensation.

Purke ran into trouble in the fifth inning by loading the bases. Normally, young pitchers with a dominating fastball and good curve make one of two mistakes in this situation:1) Play it conservative and stick to fastballs; or 2) Overthrow too many curveballs and find themselves in even more trouble.

Instead, Purke wriggled out of the jam by using his fastball to get ahead in the count. That strategy set up the curve, which he used to finish the hitters off.

In the sixth, Purke had a runner on second with two outs. With the game tied and Collins’ best hitter coming up, Purke called his coach out to the mound. After the conference, an intentional walk was issued. Purke then faced a hitter he had already struck out twice with breaking balls. Three curves later, that batter whiffed for the third time.

The latter illustrates a very important point: Purke possesses an excellent game memory and avoids emotional decisions that could get the better of him. Challenging the other club’s best hitter in a game-deciding spot is inviting and a tempting ego boost. But Purke maintained a cool head and didn’t let his emotions prevail—very impressive.

That’s not to say that Purke doesn’t act like a high schooler at times. After the third out of each inning (even the first), Purke let out a scream and fired a fist pump in the air. 

Generally, Purke is a very tough, competitive and composed pitcher who controls his emotions when in trouble. To his credit, he resists the urge to overthrow.

It’s easy to see why Purke has a chance of playing at the highest levels of organized baseball.