While wrapping up the draft with media members on Wednesday, Nationals scouting director Kris Kline expressed some hope the team might be able to sign No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper earlier in the summer than they signed Stephen Strasburg last year.
Kline said Harper, along with fourth-rounder A.J. Cole, will be one of the picks general manager Mike Rizzo concentrates on most heavily. Harper’s adviser, Scott Boras, has a reputation for dragging out the signing process all summer, but Boras said on Tuesday that it would be up to Harper and his family when to sign.
And Kline, drawing on the belief that Harper wants to get going, was optimistic.
“I know that he’s ready to go play right now. He wants to go play right now,” Kline said. “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.”
Last year, the Nationals signed Strasburg minutes before the Aug. 17 deadline. Harper has some leverage in the sense that he could go back to school, which Kline acknowledged.
“I think there’s a chance it could go the whole summer,” Kline said. “But I feel optimistic Mike will get this done and get Bryce out playing. We all want to see him get going.”
Cole, a right-hander who throws 97 mph, has committed to Miami and slid out of the first round because of signability concerns. The Nationals knew he would demand a big bonus, but are hoping to sign him.
As for the rest of the draft, Kline said the Nationals made a point of trying to acquire power pitchers, a commodity on which they’ve been woefully short. They got four pitchers who can touch 95 mph or more, denoted by a red magnet on their draft board. He was also excited about third-rounder Rick Hague, a shortstop from Rice who could move through the system quickly, and eighth-rounder Matt Grace, a UCLA left-hander who was moved to the bullpen because the Bruins had so many starters. With the Nationals, he’ll get a shot to start, Kline said.
Hawaii catcher David Freitas, who was taken in the 15th round, has already signed.