The Yanks selected Christopher “Cito Culver, SS, West Irondequoit (Rochester, NY) High School with the 32nd and final pick of the first round.
I’d love to give you guys a nice writeup from Baseball America or Keith Law or even John Sickels but, alas, I wasn’t able to find anything. I suppose that should sum up the kind of reach this pick was, especially with some of the talent that was sitting there.
I’ll reserve judgment for a later date and will give this kid a chance to earn his ‘stripes but my first reaction is definitely disappointment.
Update #1 (10:41 p.m.): This comes from Baseball America’s writeup for prospects in New York State which had Culver as the #3 ranked prospect in NYS:
Cito Culver, ss
Irondequoit HS, Rochester, N.Y.
Hidden away in upstate New York—hardly a baseball hotbed—Culver sticks out like a sore thumb. He is the rare Northeast prep product with a legitimate chance to play shortstop in the major leagues. Culver’s best tool is his arm, which rates as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Some scouts report seeing him up to 94 mph off the mound, but he has no interest in pitching. The game comes easily to Culver, whose actions, instincts and range are all plus at times, though he has a long way to go to become a consistent defender, and some believe he profiles as a utility player down the road. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Culver is a solid-average runner and a switch-hitter with a loose, whippy swing from both sides of the plate. He projects to have below-average power and is mostly a slap hitter, but he does generate good bat speed and could be an average hitter as he gets stronger. Culver is an excellent athlete who plays basketball in the winter, and he could take off once he focuses on baseball. He could be drafted in the fourth- to sixth-round range, but he is considered a difficult sign away from his Maryland commitment.
The good stuff here is the arm, the bat speed and the athleticism. The bad stuff here, obviously, is that people perceived him as available in the mid-rounds scheduled for tomorrow or Wednesday. Plus, if he’s got such a strong commitment to Maryland, does that mean the Yankees have to buy him away from the Terrapins at over-slot for a questionable first rounder?
I feel marginally better about the pick although I still really would’ve pissed my pants for Castellanos or a pitcher.
Update #2 (2:05 p.m. (the following day)): Keith Law had this to say about the Culver pick:
[Q]: Can you make a case FOR the Yankees drafting Culver where they did?
[KLAW]: Not really, no. I know some teams that had him on the fringes of their second-round boards, but this still feels like a reach to me.
[Q]: What was the reason behind the Yankees taking Cito Culver with their first round pick?
[KLAW]: They loved his makeup, knew the kid inside and out, scouted him extremely heavily, and felt that he’s a switch-hitting shortstop with a plus arm and a chance for average or slightly above-average power. I don’t quite share that optimism, based not so much on my own notes from seeing him last summer but more on what other teams are telling me.
[Q}: I'm starting to come around on Culver after buying some spin. Is there something to be said for the Yankees knowing this kid better than other teams' scouts because of his location? I don't know what to think of this.
[KLAW]: Just following up – I have never liked the take-the-local-kid philosophy. That’s how the Pirates ended up with Neil Walker. Sometimes it works, and if you’re the Angels or Braves the local kid is often pretty good, but that can’t be your primary rationale for taking a player if you’re north of the Mason-Dixon line.
[Q]: Doesn’t the Yankees-Culver situation show the folly in being unable to trade picks? They loved the kid, but heard he wouldn’t last to 82. Rather than trade down to the 50′s and pickup another pick, they needed to choose between reaching for him or not getting him at all. Might have been the wrong choice, but it seems silly that you cant trade down.
[KLAW]: Excellent argument.
This K-Law chat stuff is just food for thought. Keith Law is a good scout and a good writer but he’s by no means the alpha and omega of player evaluation or draft strategy. If he were, he’d be earning big bucks in a front office so we should all take his excellent work with a teensy, tiny grain of salt.