Nationals minor league pitcher Matt Purke will have Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, the team announced. The surgery will be performed on Thursday by Dr. James Andrews.
Purke, 23, was once considered among the best pitching prospects in the game of baseball. He was drafted 14th overall by the Texas Rangers in 2009, but forewent the draft to attend Texas Christian University. There he became a college superstar, compiling a 21-1 record and 2.61 ERA in two seasons.
The Nationals drafted Purke in the third round in 2011, despite concerns about his left shoulder which limited him to 11 starts his sophomore season at TCU. They gave him a guaranteed contract worth over $4 million, a big league deal to entice him to leave school. The new collective bargaining agreement now prohibits that practice.
In three minor league seasons since, Purke has battled numerous injuries to post a 5.00 ERA in 29 total games. He had shoulder surgery in 2012 to clean out scar tissue and remove bursa sacs, but returned to make 18 appearances in 2013.
Purke was shut down after pitching for the Hagerstown Suns on May 18 after taking his sixth loss of the season in just eight starts. His season will now be over as the recovery period for Tommy John is generally between 12 and 18 months.
Due to him signing a major league contract out of school and remaining in the minors despite being on the Nationals' 40-man roster, Purke is running out of minor league options. By the time the 2016 season begins, he will either need to be on the team's active big league roster or be exposed to waivers.