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Top college pitcher expects Nationals to draft Harper, awaits own draft fate

Although the Washington Nationals are expected to choose 17-year-old, junior college catcher Bryce Harper with the top overall selection in today's draft, it would be a departure from the organization's history. Since General Manager Mike Rizzo joined the front office in the summer of 2006, the Nationals have had five first-round picks. All have been used on pitchers, and four have come from college.

The top college pitcher available in this year's draft is believed to be Mississippi left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz, who is 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA, 139 strikeouts and 49 walks in 100.2 innings.

"I've been told I was in the mix by the Nationals, but like everyone else, I think Bryce Harper is going first," Pomeranz said. "All the hype around him, that's usually what happens."

Pomeranz has no expectation about when or where he will go, because he said the teams do not know until they see how the board falls. Pomeranz said just about every team has been through Oxford, Miss., including the Nationals. He has spoken to the area scout, who told Pomeranz that Pomeranz was in the mix for the Nationals' pick and praised Pomeranz as the top college pitcher in the draft. General Manager Mike Rizzo spoke to the team in the autumn, but Pomeranz said Rizzo was not there to specifically see him, and that the two did not speak.

"He was just telling us we look like a good college team," Pomeranz said. "He was talking good about our program and the facilities that we have. He just stopped and talked to us. it was pretty cool."

At 6 feet 5 and 231 pounds, Pomeranz has a big frame and a track record of success in the SEC. He was named the conference's top pitcher, and mixes a fastball that tops out around 93 mph with a curveball that sits in the low 80s. He occasionally throws a changeup.

Pomeranz might have pitched his final collegiate game on Friday in the NCAA Regionals in Charlottesville. Pitching on abnormally long rest, he threw seven shutout innings in a 10-5 win over St. John's before leaving the game in the eighth inning after allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out five and walking three. It was not his finest outing, and a St. John's player said Pomeranz's curveball was not as strong as usual. St. John's Coach Ed Blankmeyer also said Pomeranz was not on his "A-game" and needs to keep his curveball sharp to remain effective.

"Seven shutout innings, and he continues to amaze me in the brilliant career that he's had," said Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco. "Probably wasn't as sharp with his command. But it's amazing how critical we are of him. It's really unfair. He just doesn't give up runs."

Pomeranz saw Harper take batting practice while playing for the U.S. national team. He has not compared himself to Harper and tries to keep his expectations level heading into Monday.

"He's in JUCO, I'm in D-1, SEC, so it's not really comparable, I guess," Pomeranz said. "In the draft, those early picks, it's all about who they want. Do they want a pitcher, a catcher, this guy, that guy or whatever. But he's a good player from what I hear."

By Zach Berman  |  June 7, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Bryce Harper  
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It's one thing to draft Harper, another to sign him. With Boras as his agent, it won't be easy. Also there's the flaky, immature personality he exhibits. He could grow out of JV highjinks. On the other hand, he could turn out to be someone who never grows up (what's his incentive to do so?), a clubhouse liability, like Elijah was, no matter what his physical skills.

Being someone who does not tolerate highjinks, I'd go for the pitcher and let some other team experience the headaches trying to tame another Boras prima donna.

Posted by: JohnRDC | June 7, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

You know who else is a "Boras prima donna"? A-Rod. There's a big difference between getting tossed from a couple games and committing multiple crimes. To compare Harper's antics to Dukes' is not justified at this time.

But whatever we think doesn't matter because at 7pm tonight, Bryce Harper will become the property of the Washington Nationals.

I for one, am stoked!

Posted by: sec307 | June 7, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Is there a 17-year-old who does NOT commit some sort of "hijinks'? Imagine if we all were judged based on what we did when we were 17.
This is a big part of the reason why Harper will be in the minors for at least the next 2 1/2 years, to iron out any wrinkles that might be prevalent in his attitude as well as adjust to being a professional ballplayer. It's amazing what dwelling on a 1-for-22 stretch while on a bus from Burlington to Aberdeen will do to curb hijinks.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | June 7, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

The kids on the cover of SI as a 16 year old and playing college baseball when he should be a junior in high school. The kids got a big bulls eye on his chest and is a target for a lot people including umpires and major league teams that have no chance of drafting him unless he falls down in the draft as a result of that "attitude". The kid is 17. Give him a break. He's obviously one of the more talented hitters to come out in several years. Give him a couple of years to mature. I have kids that age and coach high school and american legion baseball. Kids will be kids. The Nats need some position ball players in their system and this kid fits the bill. Give him his money and sign him quickly.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | June 7, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Somehow, I've gotten the impression that Boras's clients, esp. the high-ticket inventory, usually DO sign, if at the last minute.
It's one thing to draft Harper, another to sign him. With Boras as his agent, it won't be easy.
Posted by: JohnRDC | June 7, 2010 10:42 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 7, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Very tough situation with Harper, don't you think? On one hand, he's just a 17 year old kid and can be expected to act like a high schooler - he needs some leeway. On the other, I'm betting he's going to have to be signed for somewhere around Strasburg rates (or else he just re-enters next year) and so is going to have a lot of cash when he turns 18.

I think my bad decisions at that age could have been much, much worse with a lot of cash in my pocket. And this is total speculation but if he's a naturally cocky kid (however deservedly), I doubt having a humungously bigger bank account than all his peers is going to help things.

I'm hoping his parents literally move with him wherever he is for some time - short of that, I don't think there's a built in support system in the minor leagues to keep someone balanced... so here's hoping he's one level headed guy.

Posted by: natslifer | June 7, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

He'll sign. If he doesn't, he'll never see the kind of money he could get from the Nationals this year.

If he doesn't sign, there's no way next year's offer from the Orioles will be close to what he could get now. (And that's assuming he goes #1 again)

And by the 2012 draft, there'll likely be slotting in place which would almost certainly reduce his bonus below what even the Orioles may offer in 2011.

And even if Harper doesn't know that, Boras definitely does.

Posted by: zaph | June 7, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm almost as intrigued with who they take in the second and third round. Kobernus/Holder? I think if you go Harper with #1 you need at least 3 of the next 5 to be college players who can be ready in 1-2 years. (Preferably a Right Fielder ready in July).

Posted by: natbiscuits | June 7, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I don't think he's much interested in another year of junior college ball--if he were, he could have stayed in high school. That whole move seems predicated on getting drafted this time. He can't get drafted higher than #1 overall next year, and he could get hurt, or have a less-than-impressive season, or something else could go bad. So I think he signs, like SS, for the best offer Boras can get him, but he signs.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 7, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

MLB drafts are very seldom about specific needs at the major league level. It's just too hard to go straight to the majors. Even Zimmerman might well not have, on a different team. It isn't like football or basketball. Next year's RF will come via trade or free agency. 2013-14's RF might be drafted this year.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 7, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

BTW I don't think the Nats had a player or manager tossed this entire season before this past weekend series. And the fact that they had 2 people tossed in back-to-back games for the first time by the same umpire--well something should be done. That should definitely be looked into by MLB. Mr. West is outta control.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 7, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: sec307 | June 7, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

As far as I can tell, no one has accused Harper of dogging it, or of lacking baseball instincts, two issues that have been raised about Dukes (Dukes on the basepaths? The definition of "clueless.") I agree that the comparison isn't justified.

Posted by: rbpalmer | June 7, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Not to say that recent ejections haven't been an issue, but the team has had ejections prior to this. Dunn and Riggleman were both ejected from games in April. Can't recall whether there were others as well.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 7, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Stop me if you've seen this one before:

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 7, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

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