While the Washington Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick, Stephen Strasburg, is on the mound tonight against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium, Bryce Harper, the 17-year-old catcher for the College of Southern Nevada Coyotes and the presumptive top pick in the 2010 Draft, will be in Henderson, Nevada's Morse Stadium, where he'll play (most likely both games) of a doubleheader against the Colorado Northwest Community College Spartans. While Stephen Strasburg decided to attend college, playing three seasons in the Mountain West Conference with the San Diego State University Aztecs, Harper chose to leave high school early and earn his GED to capitalize on the hype that came with his being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated (under the heading, "Baseball's Chosen One", with an article inside which forever labeled the then-16-year-old catcher with its title, "Baseball's LeBron") and being named Baseball America's High School Player of the Year for 2009...
In an article explaining Baseball America's decision to name Harper 2009's Best HS Player entitled, "High School Player Of The Year", BA writer Nathan Rode wrote about Harper's decision to skip the last two years of high school and enter community college to gain eligibility for the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, explaining that Harper, "...certainly doesn't have anything left to prove at the high school level, with a line of .626/.723/1.339 in 115 at-bats with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs during his sophomore campaign." And according to Harper, who's quoted in the article, he actually, "...expected those numbers and says he wasn't at his best early on,":
"'I was getting walked a lot and getting frustrated," [Harper] said. 'My coach and dad sat down with me. We were just talking about me being a little more patient. Seeing more pitches and working to the opposite field. I only hit 14 home runs.'"
Confidence or arrogance, whatever it is, it's apparently warranted, as Harper's continued to hit in the wood-bat-using Scenic West Athletic Conference, where the 17-year-old CSN Coyotes' catcher and part-time outfielder has collected 33 hits in 80 at bats (.413 AVG) with a .505 OBP, .875 SLG, 11 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR's and 22 RBI's in 24 games, in which he's walked 13 times, K'd 15 times, stolen 6 bases in 8 attempts , made 114 putouts, 12 assists, and just 1 error for a (.992 fld%).
Strasburg finished his Junior year at San Diego State University with a (13-1) record and a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts and 109.0 IP in which he K'd 195 (16.1 K/9) while walking just 19 (1.5 BB/9), leading the Aztecs to their first NCAA Regional appearance since 1991. Less than a year later, the 21-year-old Strasburg made his Spring Training debut on the mound for the Nationals, throwing 27 pitches, 15 for strikes against Detroit, surrendering just two singles while recording two K's, (one of them Tigers' 1B Miguel Cabrera, who got a two-strike heater upstairs at 98mph), and throwing a fastball that was consistently in the 96-98 mph range along with a 90 mph change and an 80 mph bender. In his second Spring start, Strasburg threw 3.0 innings, allowing 2 hits and 1 walk, with 2 K's recorded, 6 groundouts, 1 flyout and 49 pitches total, 28 of which were strikes.
The last word on where Strasburg will be pitching at the start of the twenty-ten campaign came from DC GM Mike Rizzo, who checked in with MLB.com's Bill Ladson via text, as quoted in an article entitled, "No decision on Strasburg regarding minors", telling Mr. Ladson that, "'In all probability, Stephen would benefit from going to the Minor Leagues," though Rizzo wrote, "'The official decision has not been made.'" While Mr. Rizzo hasn't said (and won't for a while now) which players are under consideration for this year's no. 1 overall draft pick, the DC GM did tell the former DC GM Jim Bowden in a late January interview that Bryce Harper was, "...certainly will be one of the guys we talk about."
Back-to-back no. 1 overall picks? Back-to-back once-in-a-generation talents? There was no doubt that the Nationals would select Stephen Strasburg last season, though only question was whether or not they could sign him. Scott Boras was Strasburg's agent, and he's advising Harper now. Will the Nationals be able to sign Harper if they select him? If they are able to, the rest of Major League Baseball's teams may come to regret kicking the Nationals when they were down.