MLB Draft 2011: Washington Nationals Add Another Huge Talent

Stephen Strasburg before he got hurt.

Three facts that will, with a little time and a modicum of writing skill, come together at some point in the next few minutes ...

Fact #1 - Bryce Harper did not, after hitting a home run last night, "blow a kiss" at a pitcher.

Fact #2 - Stephen Strasburg, recovering from Tommy John Surgery, is throwing bullpen sessions, could pitch in the minor leagues in July, and might pitch in the majors in September.

Fact #3 - Just two weeks ago, Baseball America ranked Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon as the No. 1 talent available in the 2011 draft.

More facts? Really? You just can't get enough of them? Okay.

At 18, Bryce Harper is not quite the youngest player in the South Atlantic League. He is the youngest player in the Sally League with 14 home runs, 42 RBI and a .342 batting average. What he did last night, after hitting his 14th homer, was offer the enemy pitcher a little long-distance smooch (video right here). Harper might not be the best of teammates, or people. He might be an arrested adolescent, and he might be locked in that state for a long while. He might also, in just two or three years, be one of the more destructive hitters on the planet.

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Strasburg's major-league debut, in which he struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates in seven innings. Strasburg never enjoyed another game quite like that one. Before he got hurt, he did rack up 92 strikeouts in 68 innings. Exactly three pitchers in major-league history -- Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Kerry Wood -- have ever posted a higher strikeout rate in a season of at least 50 innings. Only one of those pitchers (Pedro) posted a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Strasburg's. He was, from the very moment he arrived in the majors, one of the most dominant pitchers anyone has ever seen.

Anthony Rendon likely fell to No. 6 in the draft because he spent most of this spring suffering from a shoulder injury that mostly limited him to DH duties. But according to John Sickels, "A healthy Rendon projects as an on-base machine with good power and excellent defensive ability at third base." And considering that he's an advanced college hitter, he might need just a year or so in the minor leagues before graduating to the big club.

And of course, the most important fact of them all: Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon are all percolating in the same Washington Nationals organization (or will be, if and when Rendon signs on the dotted line).

When it comes to young baseball players, there's no such thing as a sure thing. Harper's strikeouts or his immaturity might eat him alive. Strasburg might tear or rend something else; maybe humans just aren't supposed to be that good. Maybe the five teams that didn't draft Rendon were right about his shoulder, and he'll never be the player he could have been.

But the Nationals have collected a trio of awesome talents. Which is all you can do, really. The rest is up to them, and the Fates.

For much, much more about the Nationals and their stable of talent, please visit Federal Baseball.

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