According to an article published early this morning by MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling entitled, "Nats likely to take Harper with No. 1 pick", the Washington Nationals, "Barring an injury or a drastic change...plan to take 17-year-old catcher Bryce Harper with the first pick in the June Draft." Mr. Goessling was told by a "source familiar with the situation", that, "Washington has scouted Harper for the last several years,":
"...though its top executives have not watched the 6-foot-3 catcher play yet. The Nationals believe he is as surefire a talent as Jayson Heyward, the outfielder selected by the Atlanta Braves out of high school in 2007 who is starting his rookie year with the team."
Interesting to note the presence of Roy Clark, the former Atlanta Braves' Scouting Director, now Asst. to the GM in the Nationals' Front Office, in light of the comparisons to Heyward, considering, as Mr. Goessling writes, that, "General manager Mike Rizzo has historically preferred college players," but the MASNSports.com writer does note that Mr. Rizzo did take, "...high school shortstop Justin Upton with the first pick in the 2005 draft when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks," working as the D-Backs' scouting director, a year before Mr. Rizzo signed on in Washington becoming then-DC GM Jim Bowden's assistant general manager.
The most interesting note in the article, however, at least in my opinion, has to be Mr. Goessling's assertion that Bryce Harper's "advisor" Scott "Maximum" Boras, (my nickname, not Mr. Goessling's), who got '09 No.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg the richest-ever-for-a-draft-pick-$15.1 million dollar deal with the Nationals last August, "... does not consider Harper to be in the same class as Strasburg, though many scouts see him as a similarly rare talent." That's an odd negotiating tactic by Mr. Boras, especially considering that the media-driven speculation heading into last year's draft had Boras asking for something similar to Daisuke Matsuzaka's 6-year/$50 million deal for Strasburg, who was then the consensus no.1 overall prospect...(ed. note - "Though Mr. Boras later told Danny Simmons from 619Sports.net, that though, "......there was reports out that we wanted $50 million dollars, and I can assure you, our first offer was well less than half of that...") What will it take to sign Bryce Harper? Tim Beckham (SS), the last position player taken no.1 overall by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, got a $6.15 million dollar signing bonus. Before that it was Rizzo and the D-Backs who took Upton no. 1 overall in 2005 and signed the high school-age shortstop to a $6.1M dollar signing bonus. There's little doubt in my mind that the Nationals will have to set another precedent with this year's no. 1 pick.
Following four-straight wins over the College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles this past weekend, the 17-year-old Harper is hitting .422 AVG (54 for 128) on the year, with a.516 OBP, .891 SLG, (1.407 OPS? 1.407?), 13 doubles, 1 triple, 13 HR's and 38 RBI's in 37 games played over which he's walked 25 times, K'd 25 times, ground into 1 double play and stolen 12 bases in 14 attempts...I asked the other day after citing these stats, "Can the Nationals say no?" The answer is apparently no, they can't...The 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft begins on June 7, 2010.