The Nationals set MLB draft records the past two years with the contracts they gave top picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. They are not picking first this season, but with three of the first 34 picks in a draft though to be the deepest in years, the Nationals are still set up well for tonight’s first round.

And beyond those picks over the next two days, they are again willing to devote a significant financial commitment to the draft. Last year, the Nationals signed second-round pick Sammy Solis with a $1 million bonus, and they set records by giving fourth-round pick A.J. Cole a $2 million bonus and 11th-round pick Robbie Ray a $799,000 bonus.

This year, the Nationals plan on using similar aggression to choose players who might be difficult (read: expensive) to sign and slide into later rounds because of it.

“We’re hoping that we’re getting someone great at 6, 23 and 34 – and down in the other rounds, too,” Nationals owner Mark Lerner told the Post’s James Wagner yesterday in Hagerstown. “Last year we had great luck in going after kids with signability issues like A.J. and Robbie, and hopefully we’ll have the same opportunity again this year if the opportunity presents itself.”

The draft starts tonight at 7 p.m., and the Nationals’ first pick should be made around 7:45 or so.