2004 MLB Draft Preview: LHP, David Purcey

<center><b>Potential Phillies Pick</b></center><br>Here comes the 2004 MLB Draft. It's now just a week away and every Major League team and draft eligible player are hoping for the best. The Phillies may be concentrating on power and catching prospects, but with 20 teams picking ahead of them, many of the top names may be gone. The Phils may simply be in a position where they'll grab the best available pitcher, and Oklahoma Sooner David Purcey could possibly still be available.

Vital Statistics
Name: David Purcey
DOB: April 22, 1982
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 240
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
College: University of Oklahoma

Major League teams have been after David Purcey ever since he graduated high school back in 2001. The big lefthander was drafted by the Seattle Mariners straight out of high school in the 20th round but declined it to pursue something important to him, his education. Then, last year, 2003 he was selected by the New York Yankees in the 17th round, a selection he also declined. This year it appears that he will be drafted yet again most likely as a mid-first rounder. Major League organizations have coveted this lefty for a few years now and it appears that one of them will finally get their man.

David Purcey became a star pitcher at his high school in Texas, the Trinity Christian Academy. His incredible pitching performances led his high school to back-to-back state championships in 1999 and 2000. As only a sophomore in 1999, Purcey was an amazing 12-0 and was name the Area Sophomore of the Year. At this point, he was just beginning to get the huge amount of attention that would eventually follow him for the rest of his amateur career. In his junior season at the Trinity Christian Academy, the lefthander struck out a staggering 123 batters which would set a record for the High School. Following another very fine season in his senior season at TCA (Trinity Christian Academy), scouts were all over Purcey and he was selected in the 20th Round of the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft by the Seattle Mariners. But, to the disappointment of the Seattle organization, Purcey declined and chose to move on to the University of Oklahoma to play for the Sooners.

In 2002, Purcey made his much anticipated debut for the Oklahoma Sooners but it was not out of the spot that he was most accustomed to. Purcey had been to the bullpen mostly because of the lack of pitches in his repertoire but the dominance he had with his fastball. Even though it was all new for the young lefty, Purcey thrived and record six saves, setting an all-time freshman record. His performance was dominant enough that he was able to earn a spot in the rotation. Purcey has just as outstanding in this, a more familiar role. Then, he was primarily a fastball pitcher but his fastball was good enough to rank him 36th in the nation as he averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings. Purcey also led the Sooners in strikeout totals and ERA. He was also named to the freshman All-Big 12 team. After such a fine performance as a freshman, expectations were high going into his sophomore year. His Coach Larry Cochell also commented on expectations for Purcey is his 2003 season in an interview with Oklahoma Daily. "The expectations are very high, from us, from himself, and from professional baseball," Cochell said. "He's one of the top college prospects in the country. He's going to have to handle all of the expectations that come along with that." After having a solid summer season playing in the Alaska League, posting a league second best 1.13 ERA and a league best 66 strikeouts, Purcey appeared primed to live up to the sky-high expectations. He was also named the number one prospect out of the Alaska League.

The 2003 season was a big season for Purcey as far as decisions, and changes are concerned. The idea of the 2003 MLB Draft would be constantly seeping into his mind. Purcey seemed almost troubled by the idea of the upcoming draft. "It has been in the back of my mind all through the fall," Purcey said. "But now, since we've started the spring, we've been out here every day. People seem to be talking about it more and more and more, and it's frustrating that it's there." Also, it was a year that Purcey realized that he could not just continue to rely on his blazing 96 MPH fastball. With the help of his coaches, he added a solid changeup and a breaking ball. Speaking about his new pitches, he had to say this. "I'm very confident with both pitches." Over the summer I worked on them in Anchorage. We had off-speed type catchers and once you get the feel of them, you can really do it. Right now, I've got the feel." The scouts also saw a huge change in Purcey as well and showed that they wanted him badly. Speaking in an interview with Baseball America, Sooner's pitching coach Ray Hayward spoke about Purcey before the start of his sophomore year. "I've got scouts going nuts over him right now." "He's just got so much upside. He's left handed. His arm works good. He's got great velocity." Before the season began, Purcey was name the top Big 12 Conference Major League Prospect.

So, after all the expectations and build up, it was up to David Purcey himself to go out and get it done. With his newly added breaking ball and changeup, Purcey seemed geared up to elevate his game to the next level. However, it did not go according to plan. Purcey struggled mightily as a sophomore posting a sub-par 5.20 ERA and a disappointing 3-3 record to go along with a hideous 41 walks in only 72.2 innings. Many scouts and coaches attributed his downfall to the new pitches he had added and perhaps he had been thinking too much on the mound.

Now, in his third season as a Sooner, Purcey has shown a mass of improvement from 2003 and has opened the eyes of scouts by doing so. He has established much better command of his off-speed pitches which have allowed him to walk less hitters and get the strikeouts that he is accustomed to. It is now widely believed that Purcey owns a a top 20 overall slot in the first round of the upcoming MLB Draft. After being drafted twice in his career Purcey had to say this, in an interview with Baseball America, about how college may help his career. "I have an advantage because I went through all that in high school. I've seen it before," said Purcey. "I'm used to those guys coming out and pulling out their (radar) guns. In high school I made the mistake of thinking I had to impress them (the scouts). Now, if I help my team win, that'll impress them even more." He has impressed impressed them and now this lefthander could find himself as an intricate part of one team's future.

Year

School

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2002

Oklahoma

5-4

0

75.1

77

44

84

3.35

2003

Oklahoma

3-3

0

72.2

72

41

67

5.20

2004

Oklahoma

8-5

0

109.2

84

51

121

3.28


*Stats as of 5/29/04

Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup

Fastball. The fastball of David Purcey is what sets him apart from most pitchers at his level and especially for a lefthander. His heater has touched 96 MPH but is usually in the 92-94 MPH range with excellent movement. Purcey utilizes his monstrous frame and gets good torque and drive. Has gained much better command with it over the past season and a half. Get is on the hitters quickly with his deceptive 3/4 motion. Can get strikeouts going up and out of the strike zone but must throw it for strikes consistently to be effective.

Other Pitches. Up until the 2003, Purcey had nothing more than just his blazing fastball but like most good pitchers, he was able to make adjustments. For the 2003 season, he added a changeup and a slider. The changeup is not an out pitch for him but is enough to keep the hitters off balance and set up the fastball. On the other hand, his slider is a very tough pitch for the hitters, especially on lefties. He throws it in the mid-80's and dives down and away from lefties and down and in on the righties.

Pitching. David Purcey designs himself to be a power pitcher and that is exactly what his future will be. With a blazing fastball to go along with solid off speed stuff, he will rack up his fair share of strikeouts in his career. Utilizes his large frame very well and drives off the rubber towards the hitter. Sometimes struggles with command and control but that problem seems to be steadily decreasing with time and maturity. Uses intimidation with his size to his advantage and is very fearless on the mound.

Projection. It appears that at the rate of improvement that David Purcey is on, that he could be a hard throwing ace of the future. Barring injuries of any sort, he is a rare specimen. There are very few lefty power pitchers of his sort and size and any team would love to put him at the top of their rotation in the next few years.

Comparison. Eric Milton. Of course, no two players are alike but these two are both very similar. Both are tall, large framed and have strong lower bodies. Milton and Purcey have historically always been strikeout pitchers and Purcey projects to continue to do so throughout his career. However, they both have some control and command problems at times.

Draft Possibilities. With the draft approaching, there are many teams that are looking to snare Purcey on draft day. Some teams like the Yankees and Mariners have tried an failed in the past to sign him up. Those two will probably be in the hunt for him again this year but don't rule out just about anyone to swoop in and pick up this hard throwing lefthander.

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