Yankees sign top Draft pick Bichette
Eighteen-year-old reports to Gulf Coast League affiliate
CHICAGO -- Dante Bichette Jr.'s journey following in his father's footsteps will begin shortly, as the Yankees have agreed to terms with their top selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
The son of four-time All-Star Dante Bichette, the 18-year-old third baseman has reported to the team's training facilities in Tampa, Fla., and will see his first professional action in the Gulf Coast League.
"We were excited to be able to draft Dante and are even more excited to get him signed," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of amateur scouting. "Coming to an agreement this quickly will allow Dante to get a full season under his belt in 2011 and gets him ahead of the curve in many ways."
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Bichette Jr. batted a team-high .640 (55-for-86) in 2011 with 58 runs scored, 14 doubles, 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 30 games as a senior for Orangewood Christian High School in Maitland, Fla.
His team made it to the Florida Class 2A state finals and he was named All-Central Florida Baseball Player of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel in both his junior and senior seasons.
Bichette Jr. had committed to the University of Georgia, but after being taken with the 51st overall pick, he seemed excited by the prospect of playing professionally.
"It's the most prestigious club around," Bichette Jr. said. "I think there's nothing better than being a Yankee. You grow up as a little kid dreaming of being a Yankee, of hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium."
Bichette Jr. mostly played shortstop as a prep, but he generally projects as a third baseman or outfielder down the line. Bichette Jr. has also dabbled on the mound, having served as Orangewood Christian's closer.
A 2005 alum of the Little League World Series -- in which he represented Maitland, Fla. -- Bichette said that his father has been vital in his development.
"Hitting-wise, I'm pretty much the same person," Bichette Jr. said. "I'm going to hit for average and I'll throw in a few power numbers, hopefully. And we have our same strengths, our same weaknesses. It's kind of funny when we watch highlight clips -- it's the same thing going on. So, hopefully, I'll be able to learn from him, and some things that maybe he had mistakes with, he can help me out with and make me a better player that way."
The senior Bichette played in 1,704 career games across parts of 14 seasons with the Angels, Brewers, Rockies, Reds and Red Sox, batting .299 with 274 home runs.
One of Colorado's "Blake Street Bombers," Bichette enjoyed his best season in 1995, when he batted .340 with 40 home runs and 128 RBIs in 139 games, finishing second in the National League Most Valuable Player Award vote.
A constant presence in those clubhouses where his father suited up, Bichette Jr. recently said that growing up around the Major League lifestyle taught him a lot about what to expect come Draft day and beyond.
"I think my dad definitely taught me from a young age to hit as a big leaguer would, to behave myself on the field as a big leaguer would and to have a strike zone, which is very important, as a big leaguer would," Bichette Jr. said.
While they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies, Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Bichette developed a close friendship; Girardi even named his own son Dante.
After Bichette Jr. was taken in the Draft, Girardi remarked that he sometimes found it difficult to believe that the youngster who once fell asleep in his car seat was now a top prospect being scouted by big league teams.
"I think he's going to be a good player," Girardi said. "I think he's learned a lot from his father. I think the young man's got talent. He's a student of the game, like his father was. That's the reason we drafted him, because he's going to be a good player."