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Are Nats winning too much?

The Nationals are playing such good baseball (winners of eight straight and 12 of 16 overall), that it seems like their playing with a purpose -- like something's on the line.

But while there's no playoff spot at stake, the rejuvenated Nats could be playing themselves out of position to land one of the most hyped baseball position prospects ever.

Meet Bryce Harper, a 16-year-old wunderkind with a big leaguer's body, freakish bat speed, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame and enough tools to fill Home Depot. He's already landed on Sports Illustrated's cover, hit the longest home run in Tropicana Field history and touched 96 miles per hour on the radar gun.

bryceharper.jpg

Baseball media, scouts and fans are salivating over the next big thing.

Now, the cynics will quickly point out that for every Ken Griffey Jr. and Justin Upton -- a can't miss prospect that doesn't miss -- there's a Ben McDonald or Brien Taylor waiting to happen. There's no denying the fact that some prospects, no matter how bullet-proof their careers may seem, somehow fall by the wayside. But there's no fun in brushing off a kid who can hit towering homers like Mark McGwire in the afternoon, but needs his Dad to drop him off at the movies at night.

The Nationals are negotiating with 2009 to pick Stephen Strasburg. As of now, with the Aug. 17 deadline looming, there isn't reason to think a deal won't get done. He should, by all counts, join the Nationals on that day with a lucrative contract, pumping life into the moribund franchise.

But next June, Harper will be eligible for the draft. He's graduated high school two years early and will enroll in a junior college to make himself eligible in 2010.

The Nationals are 40-72. The next worst record belongs to the Padres, who are 47-66. That gives the Nats a 6 1/2 game cushion with under two months to play.

But the Nationals' newfound success has that lead dwindling by the day.

Too many wins down the stretch and the Nats can say goodbye to drafting a second straight can't-miss prospect, and a catcher that could form a battery with Strasburg for years to come.

Or perhaps neither Strasburg, nor Harper, will pan out. It sure would be fun to see them get the chance to flourish in D.C.

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