One year after drafting the most-hyped pitching prospect in a generation with the No. 1 pick, the Nationals have drafted the most-hyped hitting prospect in decades with another No. 1 pick.
The Nats selected Bryce Harper of the College of Southern Nevada as the country’s top amateur player to open tonight's Major League Baseball draft, adding the 17-year-old catcher/outfielder to an organization that is set to show off last year's No. 1 pick, right-hander Stephen Strasburg, in a nationally televised debut tomorrow.
Harper's selection was no surprise; the Las Vegas native had been touted for more than a year as a once-in-a-generation talent, and the Nationals settled on him weeks ago as their choice after watching him hit .443 with 31 homers and 98 RBI in 66 games this season. Those numbers were all the more impressive considering Harper, who received his GED at 16 so he could become draft-eligible this year, was playing against older competition and in a junior college conference that uses wood bats.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Harper, who bats left-handed, has grown up as a catcher but has also played third base and the outfield. The Nationals, in announcing Harper's selection, categorized him as an outfielder, and general manager Mike Rizzo said he will play exclusively in the outfield (most likely right field) in the minors in an attempt to keep his body in better shape over the long haul.
Before that happens, though, Harper and agent Scott Boras must complete the often-complicated negotiation process for draft picks. As was the case last summer with Strasburg, Boras figures to make the Nationals wait until the final moments leading up to the midnight deadline Aug. 16 before agreeing to terms on a deal that could shatter some previous records for draft picks.
The Nats gave Strasburg the largest total package ever given a drafted player: a four-year, $15.1 million major-league contract. But the pitcher was 21 years old and figured to reach the majors within months.
Harper is more likely to receive a minor-league deal, which includes no guaranteed yearly salaries but should include a lofty signing bonus, perhaps more than the $7.5 million in bonus money Strasburg got. The most money ever paid out on a minor-league deal was $6.25 from the Padres to high school outfielder Donavan Tate last summer.