06/18/10 1:15 PM ET
Yankees sign top Draft pick Culver
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
New York used the 32nd overall pick on the talented 17-year-old athlete from Irondequoit High School in Rochester, N.Y., who lists the Yankees as his favorite team and Derek Jeter as his role model.
The 6-foot, 172-pound Culver committed to attend the University of Maryland, but those plans changed quickly with the opportunity to put on the pinstripes, beginning a journey that he hopes will lead to Yankee Stadium.
"We are very excited to get Cito signed so quickly and get him out on the field to begin his development as a Major League prospect," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of amateur scouting.
Named his team's most valuable player in each of the past three seasons, Culver was also a three-time all-county selection and an Under Armour All-American. He played on the Yankees' Area Code team last summer, working out at Yankee Stadium and participating in a tournament in California.
Culver completed his prep career batting .561 (37-for-66) with 10 doubles, five triples, nine home runs, 38 RBIs and 20 walks in 22 games as a senior. He visited the Yankees' player development complex in Tampa, Fla., this week and has said that he hopes his career will emulate Jeter's.
"The best part about his game is when he hits a ground ball, he runs it out hard every time," Culver said. "You can expect that from him, just giving his best effort every time. That's something I want to resemble when I get older, playing as hard as he did."
While Culver drew attention from the representatives of several teams before this month's Draft, the Yankees perhaps had the most detailed charts on him.
Scouts have said that Culver's stronger skills at the plate are from the left side, and report that he has shown gap-to-gap power, as well as the beginnings of what could develop into above-average running speed.
"We like him from both sides of the plate and think he's going to be an above-average hitter," Oppenheimer said. "He's got pop in his bat, even with wood. It's high school, but he's hitting the ball over the fence in center field with a heavier wood bat than most of these kids that we see using."
While Culver touched 94 mph as a pitcher, the Yankees sent Commissioner Bud Selig to the podium to announce Culver's selection as a shortstop, where they project he will continue. He had a .933 fielding percentage this year, committing just eight errors in 120 total chances, helping lead his school to the Monroe County Division title.
"I've been working for this all my life," Culver said. "To go 32nd overall to my favorite team, and the team I've been growing up watching -- the team my family has followed for years now -- it was just an awesome feeling. It was unreal."
Culver's selection marked the second consecutive season that the Yankees have taken a high school position player in the first round, and the third straight year they have taken a high school player.
In 2009, New York took outfielder Slade Heathcott with the 29th pick; in 2008, they selected right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole -- who did not sign -- with pick No. 28.
Culver was just the second high school shortstop drafted by the Yankees (also C.J. Henry in 2005) in the first round since the club selected Jeter with the sixth overall pick in the 1992 First-Year Player Draft.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.