Nationals complete their draft, look ahead to signing Harper, others
After starting their draft Monday night by selecting uber-hyped, uber-talented outfielder Bryce Harper with the first overall pick, the Nationals concluded their selections this afternoon.
"Really excited about the top portion of it," Nationals director of amateur scouting Kris Kline said. "The first 10 rounds are the guys you really want to sign and you hope that are at least impact-type guys. I really like the first 15 rounds."
The Nationals, Kline said, focused on large, hard-throwing pitchers. They drafted four pitchers who have hit 95 mph with a fastball -- players denoted on their draft board by a red tag.
"We tried to get away from the smaller pitchers and stay with some guys that have some size and strength, velocity," Kline said. "We had about 35 of those guys on the board, but you're not going to get them all."
Two of the most intriguing choices after Harper were a pair of pitchers: second-round pick Sammy Solis, a left-hander from the University of San Diego and A.J. Cole, a right-hander from Oviedo High in Florida.
Solis, 6-6 and 228 pounds, throws his fastball between 88 and 94 mph. Solis throws two curveballs, but the Nationals would like him to ditch one of them, a slower, more looping pitch, and focus on a sharp-breaking curve he throws with a high release. "That's his go-to pitch," Kline said.
If Solis can do that, the Nationals believe he could move swiftly through their farm system. The Nationals picked him over Texas right-hander Brandon Workman, who later went to the Red Sox. Signing Solis "will be a little battle," Kline said. "But we'll get him done."
General Manager Mike Rizzo will also focus on signing Cole. At 18, Cole hit 97 on the radar gun. He has first-round talent, Kline said, but slid to the fourth round because he has a commitment to play college baseball at Miami and will demand an exorbitant bonus. The Nationals knew that when they picked him.
"As far as signing him, we identified two guys that we wanted to sign," Kline said. "This is the guy that we wanted. He's sliding because of the money. I think that we'll get him signed."
Kline also expressed optimism about signing Harper with relative haste. Harper is represented by super-agent Scott Boras, who is known for lengthy negotiations that brush up against the deadline, which this year is Aug. 15.
"I know that he's ready to go play right now," Kline said. "He wants to go play right now. That'll be something that Mike and Scott and the family work out. But I think if it was up to Bryce, he'd want to come out right now.
"I think there's a chance it could go the whole summer. But I feel optimistic Mike will get this done and get Bryce out playing. We all want to see him get going."
Aside from Harper, Solis and Cole, Kline anticipates signing the rest of their draft picks being "a pretty easy process." As of Wednesday, David Freitas, a catcher from Hawaii, had already signed.
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