SECAUCUS, N.J. - The Washington Nationals got their ace a year ago. Now, they think they've found their slugger.
The Nationals selected the much-hyped Bryce Harper, a 17-year-old with prodigious power from the College of Southern Nevada, with the No. 1 overall pick in the baseball draft last night.
"It's what I've wanted since I was 7 years old," Harper said.
A year after taking similarly hyped righthander Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals took Harper, who can play catcher but was announced as an outfielder at the draft site at MLB Network studios by commissioner Bud Selig.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo envisions Harper as a No. 3-type power hitter with a strong arm in right field. He hit .443 with 31 home runs and 98 RBI in his first college season in a wood bat league, after skipping his final two years of high school and getting his GED.
Harper showed solid defensive instincts behind the plate and called pitches much of the time, but his path to the majors will be in the outfield. "I can get better out there, I think," Harper said. "Anywhere they need me, I'll play."
With the second overall pick, Pittsburgh selected hard-throwing Texas high school righthander Jameson Taillon. He was considered by many the top pitcher in the draft with a fastball in the mid- to upper-90s that overpowers hitters on a regular basis.
Baltimore went next and picked smooth-fielding Florida high school shortstop Manny Machado, who has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez for his ability and background.