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Washington Nationals' 2011 First Round Pick, A Mystery For The First Time In Two Years.

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Bryce Harper's 18-game hit streak officially ended when the 18-year-old 2010 no.1 overall pick rolled a grounder out to Lakewood BlueClaws' shortstop Carlos Perdomo in the top of the ninth inning of Sunday night's 6-2 Hagerstown Suns' win. It had been a 3-2 game in the eighth. Harper walked in what could have been his last at bat of the night, scoring from third a wild pitch, single and sac fly later as the Suns' sent eight players to the plate and gave Harper one last chance to continue his streak of consecutive games with a hit in the ninth. Since the streak ended, the top prospect in the Nats' system and one of, if not the, top prospects in all of baseball is 0 for 9 with two walks and two runs scored. Today's game with the Kannapolis Intimidators (best name ever?), the White Sox' Class-A affiliate, ended in the third when it was suspended with Hagerstown up 2-1. Harper was 0 for 1 with a swinging K against 22-year-old 2010 2nd Round pick Jacob Petricka...

There was no doubt the Washington Nationals were going to select Harper last year. Same with Stephen Strasburg in 2009. With the sixth overall pick this June, however, the Nats are forced to react to what the five teams before them (Pittsburgh, Seattle, Arizona, Baltimore and Kansas City) do with their first round picks. Aaron Crow, now in the Majors with the Royals, was the last non-no.1-Nats' 1st Rounder (before Drew Storen, the Nats' second 1st Round pick in '09), but Crow never signed with Washington, opting to spend a year in independent baseball with the Ft. Worth Cats before reentering the draft. In Mock Drafts last week, both's Keith Law and Baseball America matched the Nationals up with University of Kentucky right-hander Alex Meyer at no.6 overall this year. 

Mr. Law wrote that the Nats had hoped to draft Meyer with their second first round pick, 23rd overall (as compensation from the White Sox for signing Adam Dunn), but, "Meyer has pitched way too well down the stretch for that to happen. If they want Meyer they'd have to take him here." The 6'9", 220lb starter was named (one of two) Pro-Line Athletic National Pitchers of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on May 10th, after he'd just thrown a complete-game shutout against Vanderbilt.

A U of K junior, Meyer, who's said by ESPN's Draft Tracker to possess a mid-90's fastball and a mid-80's "wipeout" slider, is also described as having "no.1 starter upside." The Wildcats' right-hander has collected 96 K's (9.86 K/9), while posting a 2.98 ERA in 12 GS and 87.2 innings pitched, allowing, "...only 66 hits," and a .220 opponent batting average," as the press release on the Pitcher of the Week recognition reported: 

"Of the 66 hits he has allowed, only 11 have come as extra-base knocks. The gem was his eighth quality start of the year for Meyer, who owns a 1.71 ERA in his eight quality starts and a 1.67 ERA in his last four outings. Meyer has fanned 239 in 197.1 career innings, ranking sixth in UK career annals."

In's Mr. Law's latest Mock Draft he once again matched the Nats up with Meyer, while noting that Washington would "jump on" UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer or his teammate, Bruins' righty Gerrit Cole if either got through the top five picks. University of Connecticut RHP Matt Barnes and Georgia Tech lefty Jed Bradley also get mentions. Mr. Law says Miami Dade College outfielder Brian Goodwin could be the team's target at no.23 or possibly 34 the overal, with Georgia high schooler Larry Greene a possibility as well. 

Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore spoke to Nationals' Scouting Director Kris Kline last week for a Nationals Journal post entitled, "In deep draft, the Nationals will focus on pitching", in which Mr. Klein admitted that, "'It’s a lot different...Picking sixth, it’s a little trickier than picking 1-1.'"

"'We always just take best player available,'" Mr. Kline told the WaPost writer "'We’re going to really focus on pitching, though.'" D.C. GM Mike Rizzo, Mr. Kline and Roy Clark, the former Atlanta Braves' Scouting Director turned Nats' Assistant GM & VP, Player Personnel, have three picks in the top 34, and no no.1 overall pick to overpay this year. Twenty days from now we'll know what they did with the picks...