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Imagining Cito Culver In Pinstripes (And Slightly Second Guessing The Pick)

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The Yankee farm system had a so-so draft last year (fewer picks because of signing CC, AJ and Tex), and a down right terrible one in 2008 (when Gerrit Cole and Joseph Bittle didn't sign).  With struggles and injuries to minor league notables like Andrew Brackman and trades depleting the system, the 2010 draft will go a long way to determining whether the Yankees' farm system is strong one for the next few seasons.

I'll admit I was more than a little surprised by the Cito Culver pick.  He wasn't one the MLB Bonus Baby's Top 100. He wasn't one of the more than 130 prospects profiled by MLB.com. According to NYTimes, Baseball America only ranked him the 3rd best prospect in New York state (not exactly a baseball hotbed).

As a SBN writer, I got a copy of Andy Seiler's Draft Notebook (Andy's the lead writer for our sister-site www.MLBBonusBaby.com).  I've only started reading through it, but if you're a draft junkie, it's a great reference for less than $10.

Seiler writes:

He projects to be an above-average hitter for average in the future, probably sitting somewhere in the .275-.285 range if things work out well. He needs to work on his balance at the plate, but as a cold-weather hitter, he’s less refined than a lot of prospects, but he also has more room to improve than others, too. I don’t project him for anything more than below-average power, possibly reaching 10 home runs in his peak.

He throws an 87-91 mph fastball from a true three-quarters arm slot that gets good arm-side run, and he’s gained a couple of ticks on it this spring. His changeup is his best offspeed pitch, though it projects as solid-average at best, and his curveball rates as a future average pitch.

Let's leave behind the questions of if he reaches those projections.  I don't think the Yankees would have drafted a future reliever in the first round.  The Yankees announced Cito as a shortstop, which is really the only reason the pick makes sense.  While I've heard about Culver's strong arm, I haven't heard anyone suggest he has the footspeed to patrol center at the big league level.  .275 BA/ 10 HR RF are easy to find and expendable (see Cabrera, Melky), so the infield is the only spot that makes the pick look good.

And that is my worry.  There is/was still top 20 quality talent on the board: Nick Castellanos, Stetson Allie, Brandon Workman, Justin O'Conner.  Were the Yankees really worried about signability issues?  Did they not think Culver would be available when they pick next (#82 overall)?

In Cash (and Oppenheimer) We Trust- but I hope he signs and succeeds so we get to see what the Yankees' scouts saw in Cito.  I'll finish with this observation from Chad Jennings:

Culver played on the Yankees’ Area Code team last summer and worked out at Yankee Stadium. The rest of us might not know much about him, but you can bet the Yankees have seen him plenty of times and made the choice for a reason.