Before leaving for Spring Training last year, '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg talked to his college baseball coach, San Diego State University skipper Tony Gwynn, about what to expect on his first trip to Space Coast Stadium in Florida, as the Hall of Fame hitter explained to hosts Kevin Kennedy and Jim Memolo last March in an interview on Sirius/XM's MLB Network Radio's Inside Pitch:
Tony Gwynn: "...the last thing [Strasburg] asked me before he left was, 'You know, what do you do when you want to make a club but you're not sure if they're gonna let you?'"
Though he seemed to know what was coming, Strasburg still expressed some surprise after being sent to Double-A to start his pro career since he'd given up just 2 runs on 2 HR's and 8 hits total in three starts and 9.0 IP in which he walked just one and K'd 12 in big league camp with the Nats. Grant Paulsen (@MinorsanMajors) quoted Strasburg at the time on Twitter saying, "'I felt like I had a chance... It's a business. That's all I got to say. It's not the perfect situation.'"
"'There's always that thought in my head,'" the then-21-year-old Strasburg explained to Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen to start in Class AA Harrisburg" that, "Everybody is competing for a job here. I felt like I was included, but you know, it's all good. I'm going to go down to Harrisburg and learn what I need to learn and be ready to be called up, hopefully soon.'"
2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper is no less determined. The 18-year-old converted outfielder had his number retired last night by the College of Southern Nevada, where he spent a year breaking the school's records after leaving high school early, enrolling in junior college and making himself eligible for the 2010 draft in which he was selected with the very first pick. Harper's got plans. In Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Todd Dewey's article on the ceremony entitled, "Harper puts up final untouchable number for CSN", Mr. Dewey reports that a grinning left-handed hitting power bat said last night that after Spring Training, "'I expect to be with the big league club. You know that,'" before adding, "'But it probably won't be happening. We'll see.'"
Harper's skipper at CSN, Tim Chambers, who's since become the UNLV Runnin' Rebels' baseball coach, had his number retired last night as well, along with former Yankees, Braves and now Marlins' left-hander Mike Dunn, who pitched for the College of Southern Nevada before he was drafted in the 33rd Round in 2004 by NY. Mr. Chambers speculates in the article that Double-A Harrisburg will be the destination for the Nats' no.1 overall pick for the second-straight year. Harper says in the article that he's just hoping for a September call-up:
"'Hopefully I'll get a big league call-up in September and then be able to be out there next year and try to make the team out of camp. That's what I'm shooting for.'"
Harper hit .443 (101-for-228) with 23 doubles, four triples, 31 home runs, 98 RBI's, 39 walks and 20 stolen bases in 66 games played for the College of Southern Nevada as a freshman, then, after signing in August, Harper moved on to the Florida Instructional League where he hit he hit .319 (15-for-47) with four doubles, a triple, four homers, 12 RBI and seven walks to lead Washington's Instructional League roster in HR's, RBI's, walks, OBP at .407 and slugging percentages at .702. Then it was the Arizona Fall League, where Harper, playing twice a week as part of the Scottsdale Scorpion's "taxi" squad, hit .343, 12 for 35, with a .410 OBP, .629 SLG, three doubles, two triples, one HR, seven RBI's, four walks, 11 K's and one stolen base.
The original plan, as expressed by D.C. GM Mike Rizzo shortly after the 2010 Draft, was for Harper to start off in the Gulf Coast League with the Nationals' rookie league affiliate, but when Harper held out til the signing deadline in August he delayed the start of his pro career til the Florida Instructional League and the AFL. In mid-November, as Harper continued to impress in Arizona, Mr. Rizzo was quoted by the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore in an Nationals Journal post entitled, "Bryce Harper likely to start 2011 in Class A Hagerstown", saying that the Low-A Hagerstown Suns or High-A Potomac Nationals were the likeliest destinations for Harper. But first it's big league Spring Training for Harper. In a recent Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio interview, Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman said he thought that it would be a stretch for Harper to get to Double-A Harrisburg in his first pro season, assuming he does start at Class-A, but, "...if he gets the point where he can really play well in Double-A then we know we have a player." I'm guessing if he doesn't know it already, Riggleman and the rest of the Nationals will know they have a player by the time Spring Training ends.