SECAUCUS, N.J. — The Nationals selected junior college slugger Bryce Harper with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft Monday night.
Harper, a 17-year-old with prodigious power from the College of Southern Nevada, is one of the most-hyped players in draft history because of his hitting.
He hit .443 with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs in his first college season in a wood bat league, after skipping his final two years of high school and getting his GED.
"It was pretty difficult at the beginning, but you know, being around the guys I was around," Harper said, "all the guys I played in high school … it made it easier."
Harper can play catcher but was announced as an outfielder at the draft site at MLB Network studios.
Harper showed solid defensive instincts behind the plate and called pitches much of the time, but the Nationals think his bat could get to the majors faster if he plays outfield.
"I can get better out there, I think," Harper said. "Anywhere they need me, I'll play. I just want to make it, and we'll see what happens when I get there."
Florida State signee Kaleb Cowart, a 3B/RHP, was selected 18th overall in the first round by the Angels. The Seminoles had expected that Cowart, from Cook County High in Georgia, would draw high interest.
The Reds took Miami C Yasmani Grandal with the 12th overall pick. The junior was the ACC player of the year, batting over .412 with 14 homers
Strasburg debuts tonight: Standing room only tickets went on sale Monday, part of a Nationals Park sellout for rookie RHP Stephen Strasburg's major-league debut tonight (vs. Pirates, 7, MLB Network). The Internet is humming with offers, and more than 200 requests for media credentials were submitted, forcing officials to turn a dining area into a work space for reporters.
Nobody knows how Strasburg will pitch tonight. In their debuts, Roger Clemens and Tim Lincecum got waxed for five runs and Dwight Gooden ran out of gas after five innings. Ben McDonald, a No. 1 overall pick who ended up with a disappointing career, debuted with a four-hit shutout on only 85 pitches. His best all-around game ever might have been his first.
"It's my major-league debut. What more can you say?" Strasburg said. "It's something I've dreamed about my entire life."
Brewers: RHP Jeff Suppan was released during the final year of what was the richest contract in team history when he signed it. Suppan, 35, signed a $42 million, four-year deal before the 2007 season, and he went 29-36 with a 5.08 ERA in 97 starts and 13 relief appearances. "Nobody is more disappointed than I am with how things have turned out," he said.
Indians: INF Andy Marte was activated from the 15-day disabled list and OF Matt LaPorta, a former Gator standout, was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. LaPorta is hitting .218 with one homer and seven RBIs.
Mariners: 2B Chone Figgins, a former Brandon standout who is slumping at .220, was dropped to ninth in the order, with his No. 2 spot filled by DH Milton Bradley (.211). … DH Mike Sweeney went on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Thursday, because of lower back pain. INF Mike Carp was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, where he is hitting .250 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs.
Red Sox: Closer Jonathan Papelbon will miss three days on bereavement leave, and RHP Boof Bonser was activated. Bonser, from Gibbs High, had been on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Tigers: RHP Armando Galarraga will pitch tonight for the first time since his perfect game was ruined by a blown call. Facing the White Sox, he says of that game (from which the first-base bag, Galarraga's spikes and a ball will be donated to the Hall of Fame): "I don't want this to be the only thing people talk about with me." White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said: "He ain't throwing a no-hitter against us."
Times staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.