Nats sign No. 1 pick Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper.jpgBryce Harper is officially a member of the Washington Nationals. The two sides agreed on a five-year Major League contract with just seconds before the midnight deadline. It is the second straight year the negotiations have come down to the wire. Last year, the Nats signed No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg with less than two minutes before the deadline.


“People thought it would take until the last minute,” President Stan Kasten said last year. “We didn’t even need that last minute.”


This year they needed the extra minute and now they have two No. 1 draft picks that could be the cornerstones of the franchise for the next decade. They hope they never have the No. 1 pick again too. At the same time, they couldn’t have asked for two better years to have two slam dunk No. 1 picks.


“With a full minute to go, Mike and I both thought we were not going to have a deal done,” Kasten said. “It changed during the middle of that last minute. This was literally right at the end. It was just both sides coming together. I thought we started early enough to avoid [the last minute]. Early in the evening, it sounded like there was a willingness on the other side to not get in the situation. Yet, there we found ourselves [in that situation].”


It came down to the finals seconds but it was clear from the beginning that the Nationals wanted to sign him and that Harper wanted to begin his road to the Majors this season.


That’s why he earned his G.E.D. after his sophomore year in high school and skipped his final two years of high school. He then dominated the competition in his only junior college season at the College of Southern Nevada. He hit .443 (101-for-228) with 23 doubles, four triples, 31 home runs, 98 RBI, 39 walks and 20 stolen bases in 66 games using wood-bats. Despite being the youngest player in the Scenic West Athletic Conference, Harper posted .526 and .987 on-base and slugging percentages, respectively, en route to a stellar 1.513 OPS (OBP+SLG) this season. He led his team and conference in virtually every primary offensive category.


Harper, 17, was named 2010 SWAC Player of the Year and also earned First-Team SWAC All-Conference status. Harper’s 31 home runs in 2010 set a College of Southern Nevada single-season mark, easily besting the former record of 12, which was set during CSN’s era using aluminum bats. Last summer, he was anointed by Sports Illustrated as “Baseball’s Chosen One: Bryce Harper is the most exciting prodigy since Lebron.”


He will begin his professional career in the next few days in the Gulf Coast League. The Nationals will officially introduce him to Washington next week when the team is at home.


Other signings


The Nationals agreed to terms on a professional contracts with left-handed pitcher Sammy Solis, the Nationals’ second-round selection (51st overall) and right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole, the Nationals’ fourth-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.


Solis was the first selection in the second round of the 2010 Draft and went 9-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 15 games/14 starts for University of San Diego to garner All-West Coast Conference honors. In 92.0 innings as a redshirt sophomore, Solis struck out 92 (9.0 per 9.0 innings), walked just 29 (2.8 per 9.0 innings) and registered a .233 batting average against. In three seasons with the Toreros, Solis posted a 3.7/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to going 13-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 34 games/20 starts.


The 6-foot-5, 225 lbs. Solis was rated as the No. 7 prospect, third-best college player, in California among the 2010 Draft class as part of Baseball America‘s Draft Preview. Solis was originally drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 18th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, but instead chose to attend USD.


Cole joins the Nationals after combining to go 12-1 and fanning 10.7 batters per 9.0 innings during his junior and senior seasons at Oviedo (FL) High School. Cole, who stands 6-foot-5, earned All-American status from both AFLAC and Under Armour in 2009.


The Nationals signed or agreed to terms with 33 players from their 2010 First-Year Player Draft, including 25 of their top 26 selections.


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