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Nationals beat deadline, sign top pick Harper
WASHINGTON (AP) - Top overall draft pick Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals reached an agreement on a $9.9 million, five-year contract shortly before the deadline of midnight EDT Monday night.
A year ago, the Nationals agreed to a record-breaking $15.1 million, four-year contract with No. 1 draft choice Stephen Strasburg a little more than a minute before the clock ran out. Strasburg made his big league debut June 8, the day after Harper was drafted.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Harper is a 17-year-old power-hitting junior college catcher the Nationals plan to convert to an outfielder. He’s the first JUCO player taken with the first overall selection.
Harper hit .443 with 31 homers and 98 RBIs in his first season at the College of Southern Nevada, which plays in a league that uses wood bats. He skipped his final two years of high school and got his GED, making him eligible for the 2010 amateur draft.
He already has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16, touted as “baseball’s chosen one” and “the most exciting prodigy since LeBron.” He was the first non-senior to earn Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year award. And he was only the second junior college player, joining Alex Fernandez in 1990, to win the Golden Spikes Award, given to the country’s top amateur baseball player.
“If (Harper) wants to play here, he’s going to play here,” Strasburg said. “He doesn’t need advice from anybody to convince him otherwise. If he doesn’t want to play here, then we don’t want him here.”
Earlier Monday evening, the Nationals announced they came to terms with second-round choice Sammy Solis, a left-handed pitcher from the University of San Diego, and fourth-round pick A.J. Cole, a right-handed high school pitcher.
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