Baseball’s Spotlight is on The Washington Nationals
As peculiar as it may sound, all eyes of the baseball world will be focused squarely on the Washington Nationalsover the next two days. Without question, these are the most important days in this franchise’s brief history. Due to their last place finishes in 2008 and 2009, the Nationals “won” the right to the #1 draft pick in MLB’s First Year Player draft.
They used the 2009 pick to draft Stephen Strasburg from San Diego State University and will be selecting 17 year-old phenom Bryce Harper with the first pick in this year’s draft. Arguably, this gives the Nationals the most hyped pair of draft picks in MLB history.
Bryce Harper’s story has been well chronicled. After hitting 500+ foot home runs in a high school exhibition, he left high school early to get a year of experience in college using wooden bats. During his season (215 ABs) with The College of Southern Nevada, Harper had a .442 batting average, 29 home runs and 89 RBIs. His OPS was a sick 1.510 and he stole 18 bases in 22 attempts.
According to Peter Gammons,”Harper is the story of Monday’s Draft. He is the age of a high school junior and could break Teixeira’s position-player signing bonus record of $9.5 million. He will probably end up in the outfield, where one GM said, ‘I have him penciled in for 500 home runs,’ and may give the Nationals two straight Drafts with franchise players.”
Strasburg beings his big-league career on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Strasburg was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and was dominant in the Minors, going a combined 6-2 with a 1.43 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.
According to scouts, Strasburg possesses a 100 mph fastball, with movement, and a “plus” slider and “plus” changeup. In addition, he has shown both the poise and maturity necessary to be promoted to the big leagues. The only reason the Nationals waited until early June to promote Strasburg to the major leagues was to give the team additional leverage in future arbitration negotiations.
Because of the sizable signing bonuses and long-term commitment the team will be making to these two potential franchise players, the fate of the Nationals will be sealed, good or bad, over the next two days. We must remember, however, that for every Roger Clemens, there is a Mark Prior. For every Ken Griffey, Jr. there is a Shawn Abner.
Since its move to Washington in 2005, the franchise has been mediocre, at best. Let’s hope these two players are the “game changers” that everyone expects them to be and the Nationals can begin to compete regularly in the National League East.
Tonight’s (June 7th) First Year Player draft will be shown on MLB TV and MLB.com beginning at 7pm while Strasburg’s first start against the Pirates will be shown Tuesday, June 8th on MLB TV at 7pm.