June 11, 2012
Nats' phenoms invade T.O.
By Caitlyn Holroyd, QMI Agency
With the Washington Nationals at the Rogers Centre for the only time this season, Toronto is getting its first look at pitching ace Stephen Strasburg and rookie phenom Bryce Harper.
Regarded as the faces of the Nationals' future, both players are former first overall draft picks of the team (Strasburg in 2009, Harper in 2010) and have been impressive in their young major league careers.
Harper, 19, was batting .282 with 40 hits, 17 RBI and six home runs in 38 major-league games coming into the Nats' three-game series against the Jays. He first entered the spotlight in June of 2009 -- touted as "baseball's LeBron" -- when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16. Still, he has managed to wow even his teammates with his performance this season.
"He's a young kid, so knowing where I was at 19 years old, (I) really didn't think that he was going to be off the charts," Strasburg said of Harper. "He's surpassing all the expectations that everybody else is having but I think he's going to only get better from here."
Strasburg is having a successful season himself. Now in his third season with the team, the 23-year-old starter is 7-1 with a 2.41 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 71 innings. Having somewhat settled into his star role with the club, Strasburg is happy to share the spotlight with Harper.
"Him being such a new face and having all the talent (and) playing everyday, I think there's going to be a lot of expectations, a lot of people analyzing his every move. That's just something that he's got to deal with. For me, pitching once every five days, they'll pick me apart every fifth day but then other than that, I just kind of keep to myself," he said.
Having gone from posting league-worst records in 2008 and 2009 to sitting atop the National League this season, the Nats are evidence of how drafting well can transform a team.
Manager Davey Johnson said the credit goes to general manager Mike Rizzo and his scouting staff.
"For the last three or four years they've done an outstanding job -- not just with Strasburg and Harper but all the way down the line. They do an in-depth study on everybody they draft; it's the most comprehensive draft I've ever seen."