I will admit, as somebody who follows the draft very closely, that some of the Yankees’ picks in the last few drafts have been downright mystifying. With more highly touted players on the board, and a reputation for spending big on the draft, the Yankees have used their first-round picks in the last two seasons to pick high schoolers who were not given first round grades by the usual prospect ranking authorities, and ended up signing for slot money. Dante Bichette Jr. was ranked 108th on Baseball America’s top 200 when he was selected in the supplemental first round this year, and Cito Culver was not even in the top 200 when he was picked in 2010.
In 2010 especially there was a lot of criticism from people who were upset at the Yankees passing on more highly touted talents for Culver, especially since LSU ace Anthony Ranaudo ended up with Boston. How could the Yankees pass up a bona fide frontline starter, and not only that, let him go to a hated rival in the Red Sox? This complaining became especially loud when Ranaudo got off to a solid start in low-A Greenville, putting up a 3.33 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 46 innings. However, upon his promotion, Ranaudo has not looked like a frontline starter at all, posting an ERA over 5 and a greatly reduced strikeout rate. Kevin Goldstein recently had this to say about Ranaudo in a chat, in response to a question by the aptly named Sully from Southie:
I’ve had three scouts take time out of their day in the last six weeks to tell me how unimpressed they are with him. He tips his curve, his fastball isn’t special, and let’s face it, he’s been pretty mediocre in the Carolina League. I’m down.
So basically, the scouts KG has spoken with are not impressed with Ranaudo, and don’t really see him as a potential frontline starter. I write this not to rip Boston for making this pick, nor to pat Cashman and Oppenheimer on the back for taking Culver instead (who has shown flashes of promise as an 18 year-old in a level above rookie ball but has not torn the cover off the ball), but merely to urge a little patience when evaluating a team’s draft picks. Boston got a lot of praise for their 2010 draft, in which they spent a lot of money and reeled in a number of players on the BA top 200. Ranaudo was the crown jewel of this class, but things have not exactly gone according to plan. In addition to Ranaudo’s struggles this year, Bryce Brentz was awful last year before turning things around in a big way this season (albeit repeating low-A for most of the year, which is not very impressive for a college hitter). Meanwhile, Mason Williams is looking like the best player in both New York and Boston’s draft class from 2010, though of course it is still too early to anoint him a future star.
The Dante Bichette pick this season was criticized almost as much as the Culver selection, but early results have been very impressive (even if GCL number aren’t incredibly meaningful in the early going). The July GCL player of the month is posting an OPS just shy of 1.000 on the season thus far, and has been getting great results despite his “inconsistent” swing, and outperforming a number of players more highly ranked than he was.
I guess my main point from this post is be patient. The Yankee front office generally knows what it’s doing in the draft, and is not afraid to spend money on quality talent. When they pass on a big name, there is usually a reason. In the case of Ranaudo, the injury history and scouting reports did not match the hype and bonus demands, and these factors likely led them to pass and take a chance on an unknown high school shortstop from New York. Despite being one of the biggest “overdrafts” in the 2010 draft, Culver is holding his own against much older competition. In conclusion, don’t overreact to a surprise pick, trust the process, and enjoy the results.
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