Yankees Go Off Beaten Path With Culver

New York Drafts Prep Shortstop In First Round

NEW YORK Damon Oppenheimer trusts his scouts' eyes more than what he reads.
"The main ranking that means something to me is the ranking of what our guys have,'' Oppenheimer said when asked about drafting switch-hitting shortstop Cito Culver in the first round (32nd pick) when many didn't believe he warranted that high of a slot.

"I had over 100 years of scouting experience go in and see this kid. All my cross-checkers have been doing this for a long time: a former major league hitting coach like Gary Denbo and former scouting directors like Bill Livesey. They were thumbs up. That means a lot more to me than publications who aren't able to get to these guys because they don't have scouting staffs.''
Culver, out of Irondequoit High in Rochester, N.Y., surfaced on the Yankees' radar last summer when he played for a team run by Yankee scout Matt Hyde.
"We saw his summer league team at the East Coast Professional Showcase and our team that we sponsor that goes out to the Area Code Games that Matt Hyde basically runs,'' Oppenheimer said. "We have seen him play for a long time, saw him get a couple 100 at-bats. The process of seeing a kid from Rochester where it's cold and not good weather in the spring, we were ahead of the game because we knew so much about him.''

Include Culver with those publications surprised by his selection.

"Did I expect to go No. 32 overall? No, I really didn't know," he said. "But when I was called I was very grateful, and honored . . . Just to get to be a Yankee is awesome."

The 6-foot, 172-pound Culver, who grew up a Yankee fan, batted .561 (37-for-66) with nine homers and 38 RBIs in 22 games.
Culver is only the second shortstop taken in the first round by the Yankees since they selected Derek Jeter with the sixth overall pick in the 1992 draft. The other was CJ Henry in the 2005 draft. He was dealt to the Phillies in the Bobby Abreu deal.

"I see myself as a shortstop . . . t's the position I played growing up throughout my whole life," Culver said. "Once a shortstop, always a shortstop, but I'm open to do whatever the team needs to do in order to win."
Oppenheimer said Culver is being considered a shortstop (he also pitched in high school) and doesn't expect signing to be an issue. Culver has committed to Maryland.
"He really wants to be a Yankee and we think we can get him signed out fairly soon,'' Oppenheimer said.