Bryce Harper will be the crown jewel of a pitching-rich 2010 draft

Before the 2009 draft was even over, Baseball America was already looking to the future. After attending numerous high school showcase events and researching 18 summer college leagues and the collegiate national team, our picture of the 2010 draft class began to take shape.

Like this year, when 11 of the first 15 players selected were pitchers, the strength of next year's class appears to be on the mound. Over the past 20 years there have been just four drafts where 10 or more pitchers were taken within the first 15 picks, and the 2010 draft could mark the first time that it has happened in back-to-back years.

"I think there's some right-handed pitching," a National League scouting director said. "There are some guys there that have the chance to be big-time arms. [Karsten] Whitson, [Robbie] Aviles has a good arm, [Jameson] Taillon down in Texas. There has a chance to be some power arms."

But most of the top pitchers, especially on the prep side, are right-handers. "I don't see any left-handed pitching," the scouting director said. "Last year there were three [high school left-handers] taken in the top 18, and I just haven't seen that this year. It's probably never really a strength of the draft, but I think it's one of the weaker left-handed years."

The consensus is that the high school class is stronger than the college crop. "I'm just not that excited about the college class in any direction," the scouting director says. "I think there's some college arms, but the college bats are a little bit down from what I've seen. I didn't think the Cape [Cod League] had a lot of real strong bat guys. There were some power arms, but more bullpen guys than starter guys, and not a lot of athletic position players."

Last year the spotlight was on San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg. He lived up to the massive hype and became the first overall pick by the Nationals, signing for a record $7.5 million bonus as part of a $15.1 million guaranteed contract. If 2009 was known as the Stephen Strasburg draft, prepare yourself for Bryce Harper mania next year.

Harper, a catcher from Las Vegas, was the first-ever sophomore to win Baseball America's High School Player of the Year award after he hit .626 with 14 home runs and 36 stolen bases. He's already half teenager, half legend, capable of hitting 570-foot home runs or throwing 96 mph. A cover of Sports Illustrated called him, "The Most Exciting Prodigy Since LeBron."

With nothing left to prove in high school, Harper opted to forego his junior and senior seasons at Las Vegas High by enrolling at CC of Southern Nevada, where he's scheduled to play next season once he passes his GED test.

Playing college ball as a 17-year-old will be a challenge, but Harper will have a strong support system in place. He will be able to live at home, and his brother Bryan -- a pitcher -- will join him on the team as a transfer from Cal State Northridge.

The 2010 draft is still nine months away and many things can (and will) change between now and then, but the charts below provide the first snapshot of the top talent for next year's class.

1. Bryce Harper, C, CC of Southern Nevada2. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Louisiana State3. Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech4. LeVon Washington, OF, Chipola (Fla.) JC5. Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast6. Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton7. James Paxton, LHP, Kentucky*8. Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas**9. Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State10. Rick Hague, SS, Rice11. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Mississippi12. Jedd Gyorko, 3B/2B, West Virginia13. Bryan Morgado, LHP, Tennessee14. Chad Bettis, RHP, Texas Tech15. Bryce Brentz, OF, Middle Tennessee State16. Brandon Workman, RHP, Texas17. Sam Dyson, RHP, South Carolina18. Jesse Hahn, RHP, Virginia Tech19. Brett Eibner, OF/RHP, Arkansas20. Todd Cunningham, OF, Jacksonville State21. Kyle Blair, RHP, San Diego22. Jarrett Parker, OF, Virginia23. Justin Grimm, RHP, Georgia24. Gary Brown, OF, Cal State Fullerton25. Rob Brantly, C, UC Riverside**

* Senior** Draft-eligible sophomore

1. Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands (Texas) HS2. A.J. Cole, RHP, Oviedo (Fla.) HS3. Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley (Fla.) HS4. Manny Machado, SS, Brito HS, Miami5. Stetson Allie, RHP/3B, St. Edward HS, Lakewood, Ohio6. Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS, Los Angeles7. Kris Bryant, 3B, Bonanza HS, Las Vegas8. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Archbishop McCarthy HS, SW Ranches, Fla.9. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Grandview HS, Centennial, Colo.10. Josh Sale, OF, Bishop Blanchet HS, Seattle11. Chavez Clarke, OF, Marietta (Ga.) HS12. Yordy Cabrera, SS/RHP, Lakeland (Fla.) HS13. Garin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS, Lake Charles, La.14. Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha HS, Pasadena, Calif.15. Stefan Sabol, C/OF, Aliso Niquel HS, Aliso Viejo, Calif.16. Brian Ragira, OF, Martin HS, Arlington, Texas17. Kaleb Cowart, 3B/RHP, Cook HS, Adel, Ga.18. Justin O'Conner, SS/RHP, Cowan HS, Muncie, Ind.19. Drew Cisco, RHP, Wando HS Mount Pleasant, S.C.20. A.J. Vanegas, RHP, Redwood Christian HS, San Lorenzo, Calif.21. Cameron Bedrosian, RHP, East Coweta HS, Sharpsburg, Ga.22. Robbie Aviles, RHP, Suffern (N.Y.) HS23. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Barstow (Calif.) HS24. Michael Lorenzen, OF/RHP, Union HS, Fullerton, Calif.25. Drew Vettleson, OF/RHP/LHP, Central Kitsap HS, Silverdale, Wash.

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