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Yankees Stay With Confident Henry

June 7, 2005
By George King

NEW YORK--In the days prior to Tuesday’s first round of the draft, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer said the Yankees were going to take the best available player.

Many believed if Craig Hansen, a righthanded closer out of St. John’s, was available with the 17th pick the Yankees would take the local product who is represented by Scott Boras.

But Hansen was there and the Yankees opted for 19-year-old C.J. Henry, a high school shortstop from Oklahoma City who predicted he would be in the big leagues within two or three years.

"C.J. is a quality young man with talent in all areas of his game," Oppenheimer said. "His character and make-up only enhance his appeal to us. C.J. understands at a young age the advantages of hard work. He is an excellent athlete and has the abilities to develop into a complete baseball player."

It’s believed that Boras may have priced Hansen out of the Yankees’ budget, which isn’t on par with what they pay major league free agents. Instead, Hansen went nine picks later to the Red Sox.

As for Henry, he has been described as a raw baseball talent because he split his time between baseball and basketball for Putnam City High in Oklahoma City. As a basketball player the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder was named Oklahoma player of the year.

Henry, who says he wants to play baseball, has a basketball roster spot waiting for him at Kansas if things don’t work out with the Yankees. His mother and father played hoops for the Jayhawks. Carl led Kansas in scoring twice and played a season with the Sacramento Kings in 1985.

Yet when you listen to the 19-year-old talk, there is little doubt he will make it.

“I think I am a five-tool player with a high ceiling and unlimited potential,’’ said Henry, who batted .481 (51-for-106) with 52 runs scored, 13 HR, 41 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 37 games.

Scouts see so much raw ability that they have compared him to Gary Sheffield and Vernon Wells.

Henry understands that if his timetable is correct that he will find Derek Jeter blocking his path to play short for the Yankees. Yet, he has no fears of switching positions if that’s what it takes to be a big leaguer.

“I am not too worried about it,’’ Henry said of Jeter being at short. “I like to play any position on the field. I prefer shortstop but in the big leagues I will play anywhere. My athletic ability will allow me to play anywhere on the field.’’

YANKEE DOODLES

• The 17th overall pick in this year's draft is the highest first-round selection for the Yankees since 1993, when they selected righthander Matt Drews with the 13th overall pick. They picked 17th because they lost free-agent righthander Jon Lieber to the Phillies.

• The Yankees' second and third round picks of the 2005 draft included righthander J. Brent Cox (63rd pick) from the University of Texas and outfielder Brett Gardner (109th overall) from the College of Charleston.

• In the eighth round, the Yankees took Texas prep outfielder Austin Jackson, who like Henry has a basketball background. Jackson has signed with Georgia Tech, and scouts were concerned with his desire to play baseball this spring, which helped depress his draft stock.

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