The 2011 MLB draft results began to come in Monday night. For the next two days, every baseball team will have countless chances to find the next great steal; they have 50 rounds to do it. But the full results of their decisions won’t be obvious for several years, depending on how fast and furious the picks rise through the farm system.
This makes pro baseball’s draft no different from most others in professional sports, yet it is still very different in other aspects. For one thing, it is taking place during the season, whereas the ones in the NHL, NFL and NBA are held in the offseason. In addition, baseball obviously has the longest draft of all major sports, as it lasts for 50 rounds.
Still, this gives teams more opportunities to find surprising new stars, even if they aren’t top picks.The most glaring example is Mike Piazza, whose selection as the 1,390th pick in 1988 became famous after he started his Hall of Fame career. Yet top picks can often pay off just as well, as it did for Atlanta when it took Chipper Jones at No. 1 in 1990.
The Washington Nationals are certainly hoping for those kinds of results in the years ahead. In Washington’s case, it had the No. 1 choice in both 2009 and 2010, which allowed the team to take Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. While Strasburg won’t be back until 2012, following the injury that ended his rookie year last season, Harper is currently making his way through Class A.
Strasburg and Harper symbolize the 2009 and 2010 MLB drafts just as Gerrit Cole will define this year’s version. The Pirates selected the UCLA pitcher at No. 1 Monday with the hope that he can help rebuild the team years from now, just as the Nationals hope Strasberg and Harper can do.
Fittingly, Harper made headlines just as this year’s draft was getting started. According to Yahoo! News, After admiring a home run for several seconds before starting his trot, he blew a kiss to annoyed pitcher Zachary Neal before he crossed home plate. With 14 home runs already this year, the Nationals have to be happy, yet his maturity remains in question.
Harper is still a teenager whom the Nationals are counting on to help save the franchise along with Strasburg. But he has some time to work on his game and attitude before he gets to the big league. Unlike those in basketball and football, baseball prospects don’t have to be thrown to the professional wolves right away.
It’s still too early to tell if Cole, Strasburg and Harper will come through, but if the Nationals and Pirates could be saved just by high draft picks, they would have been out of the basement years ago.
Yahoo Sports- “Video: Bryce Harper hits home run, blows kiss to pitcher”
ESPN- “2011 MLB Draft”
MLB.com- “Legends and dynasties begin on Draft Day”