Nationals take slugger Harper with No. 1 pick -

Nationals take slugger Harper with No. 1 pick

SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) -- The Washington Nationals selected junior college slugger Bryce Harper with the No. 1 overall pick in the baseball draft Monday night.

Harper, a 17-year-old with prodigious power from the College of Southern Nevada, is one of the most-hyped players in draft history because of his eye-popping talent at the plate.

A year after taking similarly hyped right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals got him a potential batterymate, although Harper was announced as an outfielder at the draft site at MLB Network studios by commissioner Bud Selig.

He has shown solid defensive instincts behind the plate and called pitches much of the time. Still, some believe -- including the Nationals, apparently -- his bat could get to the majors even faster if he moves to the outfield.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Harper surpassed former big league pitcher Alex Fernandez, who went fourth overall to the Chicago White Sox in 1990, as the highest-drafted JUCO player.

He hit .443 with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs in his first college season after skipping his final two years of high school and getting his GED.

Harper is expected to seek a record contract through his adviser, Scott Boras, who last year negotiated a record-breaking four-year, $15.1 million deal with the Nationals for Strasburg. The top overall pick last June is scheduled to make his major league debut Tuesday, almost a year to the day after he was drafted.

The Nationals have until Aug. 16 to sign Harper, who has said he has plenty of options, including going back to Southern Nevada for another year if negotiations go awry.

Harper was the subject of a Sports Illustrated cover story while still in high school, and has reportedly hit balls over 550 feet. A hitter has not garnered that much national attention since possibly Florida State's J.D. Drew, who went No. 2 overall to Philadelphia in 1997 but didn't sign a contract.

Drew, also a Boras client, played in an independent league and signed the following year after he went fifth overall to St. Louis.

With the second overall pick, Pittsburgh selected hard-throwing Texas high school right-hander Jameson Taillon. Baltimore went next and picked smooth-fielding Florida high school shortstop Manny Machado.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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