Name: Chris “Cito” Culver
School level: HS
With their first round pick, 32nd overall, in the 2010 amateur draft the Yankees selected 17-year-old Rochester, NY native Christopher “Cito” Culver. Culver is a switch-hitting shortstop with four strong tools whom the Yankees see as a possible replacement for Derek Jeter.
Here is what Baseball America had to say about him:
Hidden away in upstate New York—hardly a baseball hotbed—Culver sticks out like a sore thumb. He is the rare Northeast prep product with a legitimate chance to play shortstop in the major leagues. Culver’s best tool is his arm, which rates as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Some scouts report seeing him up to 94 mph off the mound, but he has no interest in pitching. The game comes easily to Culver, whose actions, instincts and range are all plus at times, though he has a long way to go to become a consistent defender, and some believe he profiles as a utility player down the road. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Culver is a solid-average runner and a switch-hitter with a loose, whippy swing from both sides of the plate. He projects to have below-average power and is mostly a slap hitter, but he does generate good bat speed and could be an average hitter as he gets stronger. Culver is an excellent athlete who plays basketball in the winter, and he could take off once he focuses on baseball. He could be drafted in the fourth- to sixth-round range, but he is considered a difficult sign away from his Maryland commitment.
Immediately after the Yankees drafted this kid there were complaints, mostly because he was not a guy who was hyped by the media. BA had him as their 158th overall prospect and Perfect Game USA had him at 98. He also had a verbal commitment to the University of Maryland that is generally not viewed as a baseball powerhouse and that probably hurt the perception of him too.
However the Yankees don’t care about what the media writes. They spend a lot on the draft, scouting, and crosschecking and more often than not they’ve followed every player they’ve drafted for months and sometimes years. They don’t need to rely on the media because frankly, they are a lot more familiar with the players and have seen them play way more often than the media outlets have.
In this case the fact that he’s from Rochester, NY is pretty big. Most teams, especially smaller market teams, can only send their scouts so many places and like BA said, Rochester is not exactly a baseball hot bed. How many times do you think teams sent scouts to watch him? The Yankees have been following this kid for some time and are really high on him.
“We were able to draft a very athletic kid who can play a good shortstop,” said Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees Vice President of Amateur Scouting. “He has a plus arm, is a solid runner and is an excellent hitter. He’s a player we are happy to have. It was an easy decision for us.”
The Yankees also like drafting athletic players who play a premium position and can hit. Culver fits all three of these descriptions perfectly. He’s also a rare amateur player who is drafted as a shortstop with the potential to stay at shortstop all the way to the majors.
So if the Yankees were looking to draft a strong shortstop who could be a possible replacement for Jeter down the road, they couldn’t have done any better than this kid. He can hit, he hits from both sides, has speed, range, and has a rocket for an arm. He doesn’t have any power, but at the shortstop position he probably doesn’t need any.
The best thing about this kid may be that he’s only 17-years-old. He is one of the youngest players in the entire draft. That gives the Yankees an extra year to work with this kid over the average draft pick. In terms of development, that is huge.
He does have a commitment to Maryland, but don’t worry about that. This kid has grown up as a Yankee fan, his favorite player is Jeter, and there is little to no chance he will pass up first round money.
I should mention that there was a big complaint about Culver that had nothing to do with his abilities. Some people said the Yankees reached for this pick and that they could have had him in the second round or later. However, the Yankees were excited to draft this kid and did not feel comfortable taking the chance in waiting until the second round.
In the end it turned out to be good that they drafted him in the first round because if they had waited it is unlikely he would have been available. Oppenheimer said after the draft that he received a phone call from a colleague after the first round who confirmed that he wouldn’t have made it to them had they passed the first time around. It might be a reach, but the Yankees didn’t want to lose him and felt comfortable enough to take him in the first round.