It's a good week to be a Nationals fan. Just a day before Stephen Strasburg is expected to make his MLB debut, the Nationals selected their next top prospect with the first overall pick of the Rule 4 draft. As expected, GM Mike Rizzo and scouting director Kris Kline decided on Bryce Harper, a power-hitting teenager from Nevada.
Last year, the Nationals drafted Strasburg first overall and added Drew Storen later in the first round. Those two pitchers provide Harper with a tough act to follow, but the scouting reports suggest his play will justify the hype. The buzz started last year, when Harper appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old, and it hasn't stopped. But Harper played so well that draft experts and scouts continued raving about the Southern Nevada Junior College product.
Harper, a 17-year-old who plays catcher, outfield and third, won't be catching for long if adviser Scott Boras has his way. However, Kline told MASN.com's Ben Goessling that "there's a chance [Harper] stays behind the plate." In their official press release, the Nationals referred to Harper as an outfielder.
Despite questions about Harper's character, Kline says it's important to consider everything Harper has had to manage at such a young age.
"I think he's handled it tremendously," Kline said. "I think he's a good kid."
The Nationals have until August 16th to negotiate a deal with Harper and Boras. Since Harper's deal will presumably be worth close to $10MM and could exceed the record Mark Teixeira set for position players ($9.5MM), the Nationals may face pressure from MLB not to announce the terms of the agreement even if they reach one before August.
Harper's older brother Bryan is also draft-eligible this year, so a second Harper could be selected before long.