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Nationals select Strasburg with top pick in draft

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 last night, a move that was long expected.

Considered one of the most talented prospects in the event's 45-year history, the righthander features a blazing fastball 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."

But signing him might be a major challenge, because agent Scott Boras is sure to seek a record contract - perhaps worth about $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."

One person who thinks it's realistic is Strasburg's coach at San Diego State, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.

With the second pick, the Seattle Mariners chose North Carolina slugger Dustin Ackley, who has batted at least .400 for three consecutive seasons.

Regarded as the best hitter available, Ackley played mostly first base for the Tar Heels as he recovered from elbow ligament replacement surgery this season. But his impressive speed makes him a candidate to switch to centerfield as a pro.

The San Diego Padres were the first team to go for a high school player, tabbing outfielder Donavan Tate at No. 3.

A gifted all-around athlete, Tate was a baseball and football star at Cartersville High in Georgia, and he has committed to play both sports at North Carolina. He is the son of former NFL running back Lars Tate.

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