Yankees Top Pick Bichette Jr. Blends Talent, Makeup

NEW YORK—When an organization selects a player with its first choice in the draft, talent plays the most important role in the decision-making process.

Makeup is often talked about secondarily because unless the talent shows, a great attitude doesn't do any good.

However, what happens when talent joins makeup in the body of a 19-year-old? It justifies the Yankees taking third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. with their first selection (No. 51 overall) in the June draft.

After Bichette won MVP honors in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, the Yankees sent him with a group of young players to the Dominican Republic in late October. The Yankees wanted their young American talent to mingle with the Latin American players.

According to farm director Mark Newman, Bichette hit it off with the Latin players immediately.

"They were drawn to him." Newman said. "Players are attracted to him (because) he has leadership qualities."

And a willingness to learn on the field.

"He has really improved defensively," said Newman, who accompanied the group to the Dominican. "His arm angle improved and his overall defense got better. Offensively, it was a continuation of the regular season."

Son of the former big league outfielder of the same name, Bichette was hitting just .180 after two weeks in the GCL. He had dominated high school competition in Maitland, Fla.

"Then he self-adjusted his mechanics," Newman said. "He worked on his lower half and started to hit."

And never stopped.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound converted shortstop batted .342/.446/.505 with three homers and 47 RBIs and hit a home run in the decisive Game Three of the GCL championship series, which the Yankees won.Promoted to short-season Staten Island for two games, Bichette went 1-for-7.

"You can tell his father not only was a major leaguer but a good player," Newman said. "He has been around the game all his life."


• When general manager Brian Cashman signed a three-year extension in early November, one of his tasks was deciding about key staff members. He brought back Newman, amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer and professional scouting director Billy Eppler for 2012.

• Righthanded reliever Chase Whitley, who posted a 2.47 ERA between high Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last year, thrived in the Arizona Fall League. He struck out 13, walked five and allowed four runs in 17 innings.