LAS VEGAS - Bryce Harper was called out on strikes and couldn't believe it. Just to make sure the umpire knew how he felt, he drew a line in the dirt with his bat. The ump promptly tossed him.

That may well have been Harper's last at-bat in college; the 17-year-old catcher most likely will be the No. 1 pick in the major-league draft Monday. The Washington Nationals have the first pick.

He's already hit a 500-foot home run at Tropicana Field. He recently went 6-for-6 with four homers and 10 RBIs in a game to power Southern Nevada to the Junior College World Series. Harper's stats, after his first season in junior college: a .443 batting average, 31 home runs, 98 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.

While his former classmates are picking college prep classes, Harper likely will be faced with deciding whether his contract offer has enough millions to keep him from going back to school.

Observers think the Nationals won't let Harper get past them.

"Their draft board is etched in stone. They're not going to announce it until draft day, but Harper's No. 1 on their board," said Jim Bowden, a former Nationals general manager who now hosts satellite radio shows for MLB Network and Fox Sports. "This is the best player in this draft. There's no question about that. He's one of those guys that can change a franchise."

Bowden said the Nationals are likely to sign Harper, though he thinks Harper's adviser, Scott Boras, will seek a record contract and push negotiations close to the deadline. Boras last year negotiated a record-breaking four-year, $15.1-million contract with the Nationals for the No. 1 overall pick, Stephen Strasburg, a college pitcher who is set to make his major-league debut Tuesday.

Harper, a 6-3, 205-pounder who bats lefthanded and plays catcher, outfield and third base, left high school in Las Vegas after two years at age 16 to play for Southern Nevada, a community college in suburban Henderson.

By then, he already had been the subject of a Sports Illustrated cover story that labeled him baseball's "Chosen One." Later that month, Harper became the first non-senior to win Baseball America's High School Player of the Year.

Harper's move, combined with an equivalency test, makes him eligible for the draft one year early.

Harper's maturity has been questioned among baseball followers, including a Baseball Prospectus story in April that said scouts dislike him personally. The report drew strong criticism from CSN coach Tim Chambers, who said Harper is a good person who lives with his parents and baby-sits the coach's 2-year-old daughter.

Bowden said many veteran scouts don't like players who are arrogant at times, talk trash on the field or show immaturity, and perceive those things as indicators of bad makeup.

"That's just not the case with this kid," Bowden said. "The people that have really spent the time to get to know the person, all of them come back and say don't worry about his makeup. Maybe some maturity issues but don't worry about the makeup."

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