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Bryce Harper skips two years of high school for MLB draft

June 15, 2009 | 12:49 pm

You might not have heard of Bryce Harper, but you'll hear plenty about him in the months leading up to next year's baseball draft. Think of Stephen Strasburg, with even more hype.

Harper was recently anointed by Sports Illustrated as "Baseball's Chosen One," on a cover that evoked the aura of a carnival barker: "570-foot home runs!  96-mph fastballs! 16 years old!" From the accompanying story: 

"Harper nearly fell off the couch one day last month when he heard a sports announcer call San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the presumptive No. 1 pick in next week's draft, 'the LeBron James of baseball.'

" 'What?' Harper exclaimed with playful exasperation. 'Hey, they stole that from me.' "

Harper is 16. He just enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He'll skip his last two years of high school and get his GED instead, and he'll get the chance to play on the same team with his brother Bryan, who will transfer to the junior college from Cal State Northridge.

However, and most important, he'll become eligible for next year's draft, according to Baseball America. 

The inevitable outcry ought to be muted. The international signing age is 16, after all. If Harper were a 16-year-old shortstop in the Dominican Republic rather than a 16-year-old catcher from Las Vegas, baseball would permit teams to stage a bidding war over him. If Harper's talent is so rare that a team wants to gamble millions of dollars on drafting him, why not?

The Washington Nationals almost certainly will have the top pick in next year's draft, and maybe Strasburg and Harper could jump-start that miserable club. But that could be a costly proposition, since Strasburg and Harper have something in common besides extraordinary talent: agent Scott Boras.

-- Bill Shaikin