- Associated Press - Sunday, June 5, 2011

NEW YORK — There was no question at No. 1 in the last two baseball drafts.

The Washington Nationals knew for weeks that they would likely take fireballing righty Stephen Strasburg in 2009 and powerful slugger Bryce Harper a year ago.

Well, it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ turn with the first overall pick Monday night, and they don’t have it as easy. That’s not to say they don’t have plenty of options, but none quite as clear cut as Strasburg and Harper were.

“Publicly,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said, “it’ll absolutely come down to 2 minutes before the draft.”

While Strasburg and Harper were hyped as probable No. 1 picks for months, several players have taken turns at the top of mock drafts this year.

“I would rate this draft as without an elite No. 1, I would say it’s safe to assume,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said, “but it’s probably as deep a draft with power arms and impact-type players as I’ve been around the last five or six drafts.”

When commissioner Bud Selig steps to the lecturn at the draft site at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J., he might say UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole’s name first. Or, maybe Rice slugging third baseman Anthony Rendon. Perhaps it will be Virginia lefty and Bethesda native Danny Hultzen, or Oklahoma high school righty Dylan Bundy.

“There’s a cluster of pitchers that have above-average stuff,” Rizzo said. “There’s several pitchers that throw 95-100 [mph] in this draft. That’s hard to say in the last couple of drafts.”

This will mark the first time the Pirates have the No. 1 pick since they took right-hander Bryan Bullington out of Ball State in 2002.

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