"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Whadda ya Got on Draft?

Over at River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa takes a look at Cito Culver, the Yankees first-round pick:

I’m not a big fan of the pick; it’s definitely a reach. For what it’s worth, Oppenheimer called it an “easy decision.” Whenever a guy’s best tool is his throwing arm … well it’s always a cause for concern because you’d like the other skills to be refined. It’s not an indefensible pick though; there’s nothing wrong with selecting a premium up-the-middle athlete that will stay there for the next decade-plus.

I’ve seen some people quick to dub this another C.J. Henry pick, but the only similarities between the two are that they’re African American shortstops taken out of high school. Henry was more of a hacker who projected to hit for power but not average, and wasn’t guaranteed to stay at short. Culver’s basically the opposite.

There were definitely better players on the board, and so it’s not the best pick they could have made. No need to declare this one a bust yet. The last thing prospects provide is instant gratification. Frankie Piliere noted that Culver got huge grades late in the year, so he peaked at the right time.

Over at Was Watching, Steve Lombardi isn’t impressed either:

…Today, with their first pick in the 2010 draft, the 32nd overall pick, the Yankees selected Cito Culver – probably two or three (or maybe four?) rounds earlier than he should have been selected – passing on talent like Anthony Ranaudo, Bryce Brentz, Ryan LaMarre and Seth Blair (just to name a few).

Considering all this, and then factoring in that the Yankees had screwed up their first three picks in the draft just about every year from 1998 through 2008, I have to wonder about what’s going on in the Yankees front office with respect to handling the draft? (“What about 2009?” some may say? Well, the jury is still out on that one.)

At some point, Damon Oppenheimer – and his bosses, Mark Newman and Brian Cashman – have to be held accountable for the way they’ve been wasting the Yankees “prime” picks, draft after draft, no?


1 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 8, 2010 9:28 am

I wonder if Axisa and Lombardi have actually seen Culver play? Axisa's comments actually don't deserve to get lumped in with Lombardi's, whose take is ridiculous. Again, I love the increased attention that the draft is getting, but it does seem to encourage a few too many definitive opinions from those who are not informed.

2 Raf   ~  Jun 8, 2010 9:30 am

Yankees screwing up their picks dates back further than 1998. I don't know why the Yanks historically haven't drafted well. Unlike the rest of MLB, their poor drafts haven't hindered efforts @ the ML level.

3 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 8, 2010 9:39 am

[2] I put together a list of all Yankee first rounders and it doesn't look that good, but if you take a look at every team's track record, the Yankees don't really grade out that poorly (and are actually pretty high in terms of WAR/player reaching the majors).

4 mehmattski   ~  Jun 8, 2010 9:59 am

The same things get said by fans of nearly all teams in the NFL draft as well-- this guy was drafted way too high! Could have had him in the fourth round! The difference is that we get to find out within two years whether the pick was correct. In the MLB draft, it's more like seven years. Additionally, a tiny fraction of the people who follow college football know anything about college baseball... and as for high school kids, forget it.

For comparison... What did the perennially top-of-the draft Nationals get before Strasburg (who is still 10 hours away from his first major league pitch) and Harper (who is still as much of a ? as Culver)???

But, knowing Lombardi, he's still trapped in making every paranoid comparison of the Yankees relative to the Red Sox. What he misses is that Boston's successful five-first-round-pick 2005 draft overshadows their conspicuous misses in recent years as well. Kristofer Johnson? Casey Kelly? Ryan Dent?

5 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:05 am

[1] Axisa hasn't seen Culver play and he was quick to point that out, overall, his comments were pretty sanguine and balanced.

Lombardi on the other hand, shows once again he's a reactionary asshat.

6 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:07 am

At least in the NFL a fan has the chance to see some of the players almost every week. Also, scouting in the NFL seems to be more dependent on physical attributes, which are easier to judge from a far. In addition, most of the drafted players in the NFL are of similar age, so that variable isn't as much of a factor.

I can accept criticism from someone who has actually seen these kids play, but it seems silly to critique the draft from behind a keyboard.

7 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:08 am

[4] Casey Kelly a question mark? You sir, obviously weren't watching Gammo last night!

8 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:09 am

can we please talk about Harper? Because I'm going on record as saying I'm not sold yet...yeah, I said it.

9 rbj   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:09 am

Throwing arm? Any chance of converting him to a pitcher? Or is his glove/bat too good to take out?

He's what, 17, 18? give him about 5 years in the minors and then let him be Jeter's replacement.

10 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:15 am

[9] He already is a pitcher. The Yankees like him as a short stop, and they should know as they have been watching him closely for well over a year. Considering how much they know about him, and how little everyone else does, I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

11 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:16 am

[6] Well, to be fair, I'll also consider the opinion of someone like Goldstein over at BP, who is an aggregator of scouting opinion (in most) cases rather than someone who directly scouts players. He thought that the pick was an overdraft but also stated he would need to contact scouts who had seen Culver play before being able to say anything much more than that.

In this case, Culver is far enough off the normal path that many of the national guys won't have seen him play in person, they'll be going off tape. Obviously, that's not the case for the Yankees.

In any case, the draft didn't end with pick #50 but rather round #50 and even then, there's still the International portion to consider.

12 mehmattski   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:16 am

[7] My mistake. I didn't scroll down past his minor league hitting stats. I guess he's doing okay as a full-time pitcher.

[9] My 1992 Derek Jeter rookie card points out that back then, the Cap was clocked at 88 mph across the diamond.

13 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:18 am

[11] Goldstein does have a worthwhile perspective, but I put more stock in those who have actually seen the players because an aggregator is at the mercy of his sources, who often have their own agendas.

It is odd to call the pick an overdraft and then say you need to talk to those who have seen him play. Sounds like putting the cart before the horse.

14 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:19 am

In any case ... today is a great day of baseball.

2nd day of the draft starts at noon.

Hughes pitches tonite.

Strasburg debuts tonite.

Stanton debuts tonite.

Gonna be a lot of switching around on MLB.tv today!

15 Raf   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:23 am

[13] I think the "overdraft" part comes from Culver being off the radar. At any rate, I'm not too worried, as the Yanks have done well in other aspects of player acquisition.

16 ny2ca2dc   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:23 am

RAB pointed out that Culver was about #168 on BA's list, and not on KLaw's top-100. That's pretty damning in my book.

The fantastic 2006 draft looks more and more like an outlier every year.

17 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:30 am

[15] I still don't like the term in that context because it assumes what other teams do and do not know, and also ignores that the Yankees had 50 selections between their first and second round picks. Calling the pick an overdraft implies you can project the first 82 picks in the draft. If someone really thinks they can do that, god bless.

[16] Why is it pretty damning? Klaw has admitted to knowing very little about him and the BA list is really an aggregation. I’d like to think the Yankees do their own scouting and don’t pick off the lists of third-party sources.

18 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:38 am

[13] But scouting *is* often aggregation. A whole bunch of picks made by scouting directors today won't have been seen by them in person, but rather by regional scouts and cross checkers, each of whom will (potentially) have a different take on a player's tools and potential. Acting in that situation requires a consideration of each scout's take and an analysis of the level of trust placed in each scout's opinion aggregated into a higher level of consideration.

[12] I was really just making a joke about Gammons, who has a wee bit of a blind spot when it comes to Red Sox prospects ...

19 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:46 am

[18] The difference is a team's scouting director knows his scouts very well and they both share the same motivation. Someone like Goldstein, however, probably has more of a second hand relationship with his sources, and could be prone to some misinformation.

20 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 8, 2010 10:50 am

[18] Also, I'd be surprised if a scouting director hasn't personally seen the player he is intending to pick in the first round.

21 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 11:02 am

[20] I would too, but then again, I said *today*, where there are 29 rounds on tap.

22 ny2ca2dc   ~  Jun 8, 2010 11:44 am

Jennings is posting on Oppie's interview re: Cito. Here's some info I've found reassuring:

UPDATE, 11:38 p.m.: On the idea of waiting for him to fall into the second round: “The thought crossed my mind and I’m glad I didn’t, because after we did pick him I got a call from one of our competitors who’s very successful, saying he would not have gotten to us.”

via LoHud, of course.

23 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 8, 2010 1:59 pm

Yawn. The sun rises in the east, 1+1=2 (except in the world of infinitesimal mathematics, of course), and Steve Lombardi is critical of Brian Cashman.

This kid is 17 and hasn't played a day of pro baseball (yet). Howza 'bout we give him 3 or 4 years and see what happens? All that said, KG at BP was honest that he knew nothing about the guy, Mike A. gave some interesting information, and I haven't read KLaw's take yet. I think its a wee bit early to be concerned - and easy to forget that even the most knowledgeable of the draft pundits don't know everything either!

24 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 8, 2010 3:23 pm

From today's chat over at ESPN:

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.

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.

Aren't the "other teams" talking you about Culver somewhat biased? I think you're better off sticking with your own notes.

Klaw:Biased by what? This includes all the area scouts up here who told me this spring not to burn a trip to see Culver again.

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