Isaac Brekken, AP
Bryce Harper's story book tale is nearly complete as the Washington Nationals selected the Mormon from Henderson, Nev. Monday, one year and 29 home runs after Sports Illustrated pegged the teen as the LeBron James of the diamond.

SECAUCUS, N.J.  — The Washington Nationals got their ace a year ago. Now, they think they've found their slugger.

The Nationals selected the much-hyped Bryce Harper, a 17-year-old Mormon with prodigious power from Henderson, Nev., with the No. 1 overall pick in the baseball draft Monday night.

\"It's what I've wanted since I was 7 years old,\" Harper said.

A year after taking similarly hyped right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals took Harper, who can play catcher but was announced as an outfielder at the draft site at MLB Network studios by commissioner Bud Selig.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo envisions Harper as a No. 3-type power hitter with a strong arm in right field.

\"We're going to take the rigor and the pressures of learning the position, the difficult position of catcher, away from him,\" Rizzo said, \"and really let him concentrate on the offensive part of the game and let his athleticism take over as an outfielder.\"

Harper hit .443 with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs in his first college season in a wood bat league, after skipping his final two years of high school and getting his GED.

Harper showed solid defensive instincts behind the plate and called pitches much of the time, but his path to the majors will be in the outfield.

\"I can get better out there, I think,\" Harper said. \"Anywhere they need me, I'll play. I just want to make it and we'll see what happens when I get there.\"

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Harper surpassed former big league pitcher Alex Fernandez, who went fourth overall to the Chicago White Sox in 1990, as the highest-drafted JUCO player.

Harper is expected to seek a record contract through his adviser, Scott Boras, who last year negotiated a record-breaking four-year, $15.1 million deal with the Nationals for Strasburg. The top overall pick last June is scheduled to make his major league debut Tuesday, almost a year to the day after he was drafted.

\"I can't remember where back-to-back years where there's two players that have separated themselves from the rest of the field,\" Rizzo said. \"In that respect, it is very, very unique. I think it's a lucky time to have two No. 1 picks overall.\"

The Nationals have through Aug. 16 to sign Harper, who has said he has plenty of options, including going back to Southern Nevada for another year if negotiations go awry.

\"He's a player that wants to get out and play,\" Rizzo said. \"He's the type of guy that does not enjoy idle time.\"

Harper was the subject of a Sports Illustrated cover story while still in high school, and has reportedly hit balls over 550 feet.