SECAUCUS, N.J. – Drafting pitcher Stephen Strasburg was the easy part for the Washington Nationals. Signing him could be much more difficult.
Strasburg was selected by the woeful Nationals with the first pick in baseball’s amateur draft Tuesday night, a move that was long expected.
Considered one of the most talented prospects in the event’s 45-year history, the right-hander features a blazing fastball that’s been clocked at 102 mph — and some nasty breaking stuff, too. He went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA this season for San Diego State, leading the Aztecs to their first postseason berth since 1991.
“He’s a tremendous pitching package,” Nationals acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We weren’t going to pass on the best player in the draft.”
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But signing him might be a major challenge, because agent Scott Boras is sure to seek a record contract – perhaps worth approximately $50 million.
Teams have until Aug. 15 to sign draft choices, otherwise they lose their rights.
“We don’t negotiate through the media, so I’m not going to begin now,” Rizzo said.
Strasburg leads Division I pitchers with 195 strikeouts in 109 innings this year, and was the only amateur on the U.S. Olympic team that won a bronze medal in Beijing last summer.
Strasburg went undrafted out of high school, but some think he has the ability to go straight from college to the big leagues.
“It’s tough to say right now,” Strasburg said in a phone interview on MLB Network. “I’m just really enjoying the time with friends and family right now. We’ll see what happens.”
With the second pick, the Seattle Mariners chose North Carolina slugger Dustin Ackley, who has batted at least .400 for three consecutive seasons.
The San Diego Padres were the first team to go for a high school player, tabbing outfielder Donavan Tate at No. 3.
Eleven of the first 15 picks were pitchers, considered the strength of this unpredictable draft class.
The fourth and fifth selections were players who rocketed up draft boards late.
Pittsburgh went for Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez, a late bloomer, and Baltimore chose high school right-hander Matthew Hobgood out of California.
San Francisco took another right-hander, Zack Wheeler out of East Paulding High School in Georgia. The Giants picked right before his hometown Atlanta Braves, who were thought to be interested in Wheeler.
The Braves then selected pitcher Mike Minor, who joined David Price (2007) and Jeremy Sowers (2004) as Vanderbilt lefties to go among the first seven picks.
Cincinnati chose Arizona State right-hander Mike Leake at No. 8, and Detroit went for righty Jacob Turner, a Missouri high schooler.
The Nationals were the first team to have a pair of top-10 picks. They chose reliever Drew Storen at No. 10, a right-hander from Stanford.