The board could not have fallen more perfectly for the New York Yankees Monday night.
Picking 32nd overall, they had several potential top-10 talents available for selection, including Middle Tennessee State outfielder Bryce Brentz, and LSU right hander Anthony Ranaudo.
Most years, Brian Cashman would scoop up the top available talent, pay him above-slot money, and that would be that.
But this was not most years.
The Yankees did not go above slot with their first round pick. Instead, they selected a two-way player out of Irondequoin High School in Rochestar, Cito Culver. Brentz and Ranaudo, both considered top-10 picks coming into the season, ended up in Boston.
With all due respect to Culver, this was a rather shocking pick. Culver was the 168th ranked player in this draft class according to Baseball America. The Yankees had one pick in the first 81, and they chose to spend it on a player who likely would have been available at 82?
Is it really that bad?
Culver's main draw back is that he simply lacks elite offensive tools. He's got decent size for a short stop at 6-2, 175 pounds, and is reasonably athletic, but he's not a burner. He has decent gap power and the Yankees envision a bit more, but he doesn't have the power upside of the Yankees 2005 first round pick, short stop CJ Henry.
That's not to say he is lacking in tools. Culver should be able to stick at the position, as he's a good defender and has a cannon for an arm. His arm is likely his best tool, and even if his bat doesn't come around, he could find a spot in the Major Leagues as a utility player.
He also throws in the low to mid 90s off the mound, so should he completely fail as a position player that is a possible destination.
Culver is a switch hitter with good bat speed and a nice looking swing. He has decent gap power and the Yankees think he can develop that further. Given his defensive prowess and the position he plays, if he could develop into just a league average hitter he'd provide the Yankees with considerable value; if not in the lineup then at least on the trading block.
The Yankees probably know this guy better than any other team. It's certainly possible they like his bat more than Baseball America does, but I think his likely bellow-slot contract demands factored into this decision. While he has a commitment to Maryland, it shouldn't be too hard to break - this is a lot higher than he expected to be drafted.
While Culver is far from a can't miss prospect, he deserves a chance. Yes, a player like Bryce Brentz could be a very good Major Leaguer, and could be a thorn in the Yankees side for years.
This pick could look really bad five years down the road. But Culver does have an intriguing skill set. It's all about the bat. Should that develop, Culver has a chance to potentially replace Derek Jeter, and provide a long term solution at the short stop position.