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News from Nats Town- Getting ready for the Hot Stove, and this summers draft

0608_largeTop prospect and likely the top overall pick for next years MLB Draft, Bryce Harper, passed his GED earlier this week. Harper, 17, dropped out of high school after his sophomore season in order to attend community college this season, and become eligible for the 2010 draft.

By leaving school a year early and getting a year of college under his belt, he will become eligible for the draft after what would have been his Junior year of high school. Harper will join his brother, Bryan Harper, at the Community College of Southern Nevada. Bryan had been playing for Cal State Northridge, but transfered to play with his brother for one last year. The two shared one varsity season together at Las Vegas high school.

While leaving high school early to enter the draft may seem a vain attempt at money, in reality it was the right move for the phenom. Harper is far and away the most advanced sophomore in high school baseball, possibly ever. The competition level is just too low for him, and staying around will only hurt his development. In 38 games last season Harper batted .590 with 11 homers, this past season he hit .626 with 14 homers and 55 RBI. He also became the first sophomore in history to be named first-team All American by Baseball America.

While Harper can be jokingly referred to as the best thing since Stephen Strasburg, his hype appears well deserved as scouts and coaches who had experience with the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez at the same age say Harper is far and away better. That’s pretty good praise.

(Read: Bryce Harper’s accolades read like a list of Chuck Norris Facts)

Baseball Prospectus breaks down each team at the Winter Meetings in Indiana and gives reason for Nationals fans to have hope:

“It’s important to remember that the Nationals are still feeling the effects of years of being owned by MLB. You don’t recover from being a ward of the state, run without anyone deeply invested in the success of the team on or off the field, for some time. They don’t have the talent base to contend, and they’re just starting to develop a farm system, so all they can do is make constant marginal improvements. It would be good to see them trade Adam Dunn, a great hitter on a fantastic contract who should return a good price in prospects. Dunn would be an impact player for a dozen teams, and not just ones in the AL who can use him at DH.”

The Washington Times praises the Nationals for changing their approach this winter:

“The Nationals’ front office packed up at the conclusion of the winter meetings Thursday having generated more activity – and buzz – than any session in the past few years. Unlike 2007 – when former general manager Jim Bowden made a series of trades for reclamation projects or unproven prospects – and last year – when their futile pursuit of Mark Teixeira was the only substantive activity they generated – the Nationals gave strong signals they were ready to pursue a different course.”

The Washington Post looks at the market change, especially for pitchers, so far in this off-season:

 

“As a whole, the market for free agent pitching is shifting significantly upward, with the deals signed by Randy Wolf (three years, $29.75 million from Milwaukee), Brad Penny (one year, $7.5 million from St. Louis) and Rich Harden (one year, $7.5 million from Texas) signaling rising prices on the remaining inventory — both on the prime (Lackey) and sub-prime (Jon Garland, Jason Marquis, Vicente Padilla, Joel Piñeiro, et al.) markets.

A team like the Nationals, then, must either raise its offers in line with the current market, or aim a little lower.

“We’re engaged with a lot of agents on a lot of pitchers,” Rizzo said. “We’re trying to find the best fit for us, with the best pitchers at the ability level we’re looking at. I think it’s going to take a little bit of time. I don’t think it’s going to be a real fast-moving market. But as always happens, when pitchers start [signing], there usually is a domino effect.”

 

The Nationals are also expected to officially introduce new catcher Ivan Rodriguez. The future hall-of-famer recently signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Nationals to play mostly back-up catcher for Jesus Flores.

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