08/17/10 1:00 AM ET
Yankees don't wait for Draft deadline
Early work helps Bombers sign 16 of first 17 selections
By Tim Britton / MLB.com
The team inked Christopher "Cito" Culver on June 18, just 11 days after making the shortstop from Irondequoit High School in Rochester, N.Y., its first-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft and almost two months before Monday's deadline.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't easier," Yankees vice president of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer said on Monday. "It definitely makes things a lot nicer that that got done."
Culver wasn't the only high-round pick the Yankees signed well before Monday's midnight deadline. After coming to terms with third-round pick Rob Segedin last Thursday and second-round pick Angelo Gumbs on Friday, the Yankees had signed 12 of their first 13 picks. That freed them up on Monday to focus their energies on the few players that remained unsigned.
The biggest of those was Mason Williams, an outfielder out of West Orange High School in Florida who was selected in the fourth round. The Yankees were able to get a deal done with Williams with a few hours to spare, in part because they went over slot with the largest bonus they offered a pick at $1.45 million.
"Obviously, we didn't think he was a fourth-round pick," Oppenheimer said. "Before the Draft, we had him valued higher than that."
Oppenheimer added that Williams' strong performance during the summer only bolstered his worth in the Yankees' eyes.
Signing their top 13 and 16 of their top 17 selections -- 14th-round pick Travis Dean was the lone holdout in the first 17 rounds -- was particularly rewarding to the scouting department, according to Oppenheimer.
"That makes you feel real good about the work in scouting them and assessing makeup and their signability," he said. "We feel real good about it."
Culver, of course, is the Yankees' main bounty from the Draft. A 6-foot-2, 172-pound shortstop who had committed to the University of Maryland, Culver is a switch-hitter who patterned his game after his favorite player, Derek Jeter.
"We like him from both sides of the plate and think he's going to be an above-average hitter," Oppenheimer said in June. "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."
Playing in New York state, Culver attracted the attention of the Yankees early on. A three-time all-county selection for Irondequoit, Culver played on the Yankees' Area Code team in 2009, even getting a chance to work out at Yankee Stadium.
During his senior year, Culver hit .561 with nine homers and 38 RBIs in 22 games.
"I've been working for this all my life," Culver said after signing. "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."
Gumbs, meanwhile, is an outfielder who oozes athleticism and grew up idolizing Roberto Clemente.
"He's a well above-average athlete. The guy can throw, he can run, he's got some pop in his bat," Oppenheimer said in June. "We're pretty excited by that combination."
Gumbs and Williams represented a conscious movement on the part of the Yankees to infuse their farm system with athleticism.
"We've realized that we need to get some athleticism into the system and make it a priority," Oppenheimer said during the Draft. "It fit for us this year."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.