Upon signing Stephen Strasburg to a record-setting, $15.1 million contract less than two minutes before the Aug. 17 deadline to lock up all draft picks, Nationals team president Stan Kasten said the experience convinced him he never wanted to have the No. 1 pick in the draft again.
Sorry, Stan. You and your front-office mates get to do it all over again in 2010.
The Nats are now assured of the first selection in next summer’s draft. At 53-103, they have “clinched” the worst record in the majors for the second straight season. The “second-place” Pirates improved to 59-96 with a victory yesterday over the Dodgers. Even if Washington wins out and Pittsburgh loses out, they’ll finish with identical 59-103 records, and the Nats “win” the tiebreaker because they finished with a worse record last season.
So let the Bryce Harper talks fly. The 16-year-old catcher from Las Vegas, who has already been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, is the early favorite to be the top pick next year. That said, this isn’t nearly the slam-dunk that Strasburg was. There’s still the issue of whether Harper will be eligible for the 2010 draft because of his young age — he has enrolled at a junior college in Nevada, skipping his final two years of high school, but there’s no guarantee MLB will allow him to be drafted through this loophole. There’s also a whole lot more risk in drafting such a young player, and projecting how he’ll do five or six years down the road.
There will be plenty of time for Harper talk in the coming months. For now, all you need to know is that the Nats, once again, are on the clock.