Last Friday, the Chicago White Sox promoted left-handed pitcher Matt Purke to the big league roster. He has yet to appear in a major league game but his story is quite interesting: not long ago it looked like his career was over, yet here he is in the Show.
Purke has been on the prospect radar for a long time. A high school pitcher from Klein, Texas, Purke was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the first round in 2009, the 14th overall pick. He did not sign and chose to honor his commitment to Texas Christian University. As a freshman he was extremely successful in 2010, going 16-0, 3.02 in 116 innings with a 142/34 K/BB.
A draft-eligible sophomore, he made 11 starts for the Horned Frogs in 2011 with a 1.71 ERA and a 61/20 K/BB in 53 innings, but arm woes dampened his draft stock. He was selected by the Washington Nationals in the third round but continued to fight injuries in pro ball, culminating in shoulder debridement surgery in 2012. Tommy John surgery followed in 2014 after he posted an 8.04 ERA in 31 innings in Double-A.
Purke managed 64 innings last year between A-ball and Double-A, posting a 43/17 K/BB and a 4.36 ERA but with muted scouting reports. He signed with the White Sox as a minor league free agent over the winter. Assigned to Triple-A Charlotte, he ran up a 2.30 ERA in 16 innings with an 14/8 K/BB before his promotion.
Listed at 6-4, 215, Purke had electric stuff before his series of injuries. He doesn't have quite the same zip nowadays but is still respectable, featuring a fastball in the low-90s along with a solid slider plus a split-finger pitch he uses in change-up situations.
The Nationals used him as a starter but the White Sox have deployed him primarily as a reliever, with one start and nine relief outings on the Charlotte docket. He is very tough on left-handed hitters so the bullpen seems like his best option going forward, particularly so given his health history.
This clip is more than two years old but gives some idea how Purke looks when healthy.