The Nationals are No. 1 again this year, at least in the pecking order at Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft.
The team will be picking first for the second year in a row. At this time last year, Washington was welcoming stud pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who will be starting his first major league game tomorrow.
This year, the Nationals have a similar opportunity to snag a top prospect that may challenge Strasburg when it comes to asking price.
The team is likely to pick Bryce Harper, a 17-year-old junior college catcher/outfielder. If picked first, Harper would be the first juco player taken in the top spot.
Harper has been compared to baseball greats such as Kirby Puckett, and apparently is better that Ken Griffey Jr. or Alex Rodriguez when they were the same age.
But all great things come at a price. With Strasburg it was a record contract. With Harper, the salary could go even higher. But of greater concern may be his attitude.
Recently, Harper was ejected from the Junior College World Series and suspended for two games. He was called out on strikes and preceded to glare at the umpire and then draw a line in the dirt, apparently demonstrating where the ball had crossed the plate. That was enough to get him ejected.
Earlier in the tournament he almost started a brawl after allegedly trying to spike an opposing player with his cleats as the player rounded the bases.
But attitudes can be dealt with, or better yet, changed. If the Nationals are able to land Harper, and if Harper lives up to the hype, the future could be bright. This decent team with some young players who have some outstanding potential could become, dare we say, playoff contenders. They're almost there already.
The draft starts tonight at 7 p.m. and runs through Wednesday.