With Ray gone, Solis and Purke are Nats' top lefty prospects

The Nationals felt so confident in the left-handed pitching they have available in their organization that they were will to part with Robbie Ray.

Ray came on strong in 2013 and got a lot of attention from opposing scouts. With Double-A Harrisburg, he became a part of a very a tremendous starting five. Ray was 5-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 11 starts at Harrisburg. He had 60 strikeouts and 21 walks.

For the season, combined with his high Single-A Potomac numbers, Ray went 11-5 with a 3.36 ERA and 160 strikeouts.

But the Nationals placed left-handers Matt Purke and Sammy Solis on their Arizona Fall League team for a reason. They wanted to see if their top two southpaw starters could deliver against the best prospects from other major league teams.

Purke won an AFL Pitcher of the Week honors and Solis sent the Mesa Solar Sox into the championship game with a must-win performance.

Overall, Purke went 3-1 with a 3.91 ERA. In his first 12 innings for Mesa, he allowed no runs. Solis went 5-2 with a 2.17 ERA in Arizona, registering 29 strikeouts and seven walks.

In his final AFL appearance, Solis went five innings and surrendered six hits and only on run, no walks and four strikeouts in a division-clinching victory over Glendale.

Purke was already on the Nationals' 40-man roster; Solis was added last month. They pitched well all season and now become the organizations most important up and coming left handed starters.

Nationals president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo said Solis just needs to build some innings this upcoming season and is very close to the majors.

"I just think he needs to log innings," Rizzo said. "He is a guy that his progression was cut short by the Tommy John injury and surgery. But when he is performing and he was healthy, and we think he is going to be healthy, he finished the season healthy in the Arizona fall league.

"He pitched extremely well. He is a stuff left-hander that we think his stuff can play in the big leagues in the short term. He gives us some depth in the rotation and a guy that we feel that can help us in the major leagues very soon."

Solis and Purke are top pitching prospects, alongside right-handers Lucas Giolito and Jake Johansen. The fact that Rizzo did not have to part with any of these commodities to acquire Doug Fister cannot be ignored or understated. Having Solis and Purke on the 40-man also means they are quick phone call away from getting a spot start or more this season for the Nationals.

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