Yankees Find Bichette In First Round





NEW YORK If Hal Steinbrenner hadn't overruled Brian Cashman in the offseason when the general manager did not want to sign reliever Rafael Soriano to a three-year, $35 million deal to be Mariano Rivera's set-up man, Dante Bichette, Jr. would not have been the Yankees' first pick in the 2011 draft.
 
Instead of picking 51 when the Yankees took Bichette, the son of former major league outfider Dante Bichette and friend of Yankees manager Joe Girardi from their Rockies days, the Yankees would have had the 31st pick in the draft.
 
Yet, that pick was lost due to the signing of Soriano, who has been on the disabled list since the middle of May with an elbow problem and has yet to look comfortable in the set-up role after leading the AL in saves last year. Since he has been shelved David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain have been terrific.

Bichette, 18, is listed at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds and batted a team-high .640 (55-for-86) with 58 runs 14 doubles, 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 30 games this season for Orangewood Christian High in Maitland, Fla. Bichette has been named the "all-Central Florida baseball player of the year" by the Orlando Sentinel in each of the past two seasons.
 
Following his junior year, he was selected as an Under Armour All-American and named his team's most valuable player.
 
"Dante is one of the guys in this draft we thought had an impact bat and the potential to hit for big power in the middle of the order," Yankees vice president of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer said. "He's someone with an advanced makeup and work ethic who possesses the desire and drive to be a special major leaguer."
 
The righthanded batter was ranked by Baseball America as the 15th-best overall player out of the state of Florida in this year's draft. In 2005, Bichette participated in the Little League World Series with his Maitland, Fla. team.
 
The selection of Bichette marks the fourth straight year the Yankees have taken a high school player with their first selection in the draft.