2011 Draft: Yankees take Dante Bichette Jr. with 51st overall pick

Without a first round pick because of the Rafael Soriano signing, the Yankees did not pick until 51st overall on Monday night. They used that pick to take the son of a former big leaguer…

(Photo Credit: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)

Dante Bichette Jr. | 3B/OF

Background
Obviously, Bichette Jr. is the son of former All-Star Dante Bichette, who hit .299/.336/.499 with 274 homers in a career that spanned five teams and parts of 14 seasons. Junior attends Orangewood Christian High School in Orlando, and he first came into the public eye when he helped his team to the Little League World Series in 2005. He’s committed to Georgia.

Scouting Report
A right-handed hitter, Bichette offers bat speed and huge raw power, though there’s a lot of moving parts in his swing and he often sells out for the long ball. He’ll have to cut down on the movement and shorten up the swing to avoid becoming an all-or-nothing hitter. They won’t be small tweaks. Although he played third base in high school, Bichette is destined for left field long-term because he lacks the quickness needed for the infield. His arm is strong, but the 6-foot-1, 215 pounder isn’t a great runner and only figures to slow down as he gets older. Here’s some video.

Miscellany
Following the pick, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer said Bichette “possesses the desire and drive to be a special major leaguer” with the “potential to hit for big power in the middle of the order,” which is kinda what he has to say. The Bichettes are close friends of the Girardis, and in fact Joe’s son is named Dante after his former Rockies’ teammate. That has nothing to do with anything, but I figured it was worth a mention.

Unless he shows big time improvement in the field, Bichette is only going to offer value at the plate. That said, his power is very real, some of the best in the draft, and that’s a tool that’s getting harder and harder to find these days. There’s just not much to like about the rest of the package. Dante Jr. is a limited player, and frankly the skill set sounds a whole lot like what Shelley Duncan brought to the table when he was drafted. I have no idea what kind of money we’re looking at here, but MLB’s slot recommendation for the 51st overall pick is approximately $695,000. I can’t imagine Bichette’s bonus would deviate much from that, if at all.

Baseball America ranked him as the 108th best prospect in the draft, though he did not make Keith Law‘s latest top 100 draft prospects list.

Suttle homers twice as Banuelos gets rocked

Austin Romine was unsurprisingly placed on the disabled list today; he had missed a few days with a sore back and neck following a collision at the plate. Jason Place took his spot on the roster. Carlos Silva was also placed on the disabled list today, likely due to the stiff shoulder that forced him to miss yesterday’s starter. P.J. Pilittere took his place on the roster, and Triple-A Scranton might need the extra catcher because Jesus Montero is battling an eye infection. Fun stuff.

We’re going to recapping the minor league action bullet point-style over the next few days because of the draft, just FYI. Let’s get into tonight’s action…

  • Triple-A Scranton lost. Jorge Vazquez hit his 19th homer and D.J. Mitchell uncharacteristically struck out ten in six innings. That’s pretty much it.
  • Double-A Trenton is still playing in extra innings. All you need to know is that Manny Banuelos got crushed: 4 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. Oh, and Corban Joseph homered. So did Bradley Suttle. Twice.
  • High-A Tampa won. Kelvin Castro and Zoilo Almonte both went deep. Sean Blackk threw six scoreless, a much needed solid start for him.
  • Low-A Charleston lost. Slade Heathcott had a hit and walk, but both J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez went hitless. Jose Ramirez had a strong start, throwing six scoreless.

2011 Draft: Day One LiveBlog

Tonight’s draft broadcast will begin at 7pm ET on MLB Network (simulcast on MLB.com), and from the looks of things, it’ll last about four hours. A total of 60 picks will be made tonight, covering the first and supplemental first rounds. The Yankees will be making just one pick (51st overall) tonight while the Rays lead the way with nine (!!!). The Tigers are the only team that will not make a pick tonight, their first rounder went to the Red Sox for Victor Martinez. The full draft order can be found here.

Use this to talk about all things draft. The regular nightly open thread can be found here for everything else. Please follow our ground rules and keep your conversations in the appropriate places (same rules as last year, no sense in re-posting them). The next three days will be both hectic and fun, so thanks for helping keep things orderly. Fun starts after the jump…

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Monday Open Thread

The Yankees are off tonight, so here’s an open thread to hold everyone over. Of course, the draft begins at 7pm ET (MLB Network) and I’ll be liveblogging it, so hopefully you’ll come join me then. Use this thread as you see fit tonight, anything goes.

The Yankee Clippings: 6/6/2011

With Mike’s live-chat and the draft just 90 minutes away, let’s jump in with some links. Thanks to David for the new name for this semi-regular section.

Draft Links: Oppenheimer, Mocks, Chats, Etc.

See you in about eight years, Gerrit. (Flickr user boomer-44 via Creative Commons license)

The draft begins at 7pm ET tonight and can be seen on MLB Network, and of course I’ll be liveblogging the whole shabang right here. The top three picks are pretty much settled: UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole will go first overall to the Pirates, Rice 3B Anthony Rendon will go second to the Mariners, and UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer will go third to the Diamondbacks. That could still change, but it seems unlikely. I’m not 100% certain, but I do believe Cole and Bauer will be the first pair of teammates to both go in the top three picks of the same draft in history. Rice RHPs Phil Humber and Jeff Niemann went third and fourth overall in 2004, respectively, so Cole and Bauer would replace them as the highest drafted teammates. At least I think they will, like I said I’m not certain.

Anyway, with a few hours to go, here’s some miscellaneous draft links to keep you occupied. All of our draft content here can be found right here

Oppenheimer On The 51st Pick

“It’s a lot harder,” said amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer to George King when asked about not picking until 50 other players are already off the board. “When you pick higher, you can center in on a guys and get multiple looks. Now, with all the supplemental picks, you don’t have a clue what [other teams] will do … We will try to find the best available guy we can. It doesn’t matter if it’s high school or college.”

Final Mock Drafts

Both Jim Callis and Keith Law posted their (presumably) final mock drafts earlier today and revised them this afternoon. Callis’ list of picks is free but the analysis is behind the pay wall. KLaw’s mock is behind the iron curtain of Insider, but MLBTR provided a nice little recap. Kevin Goldstein’s mock draft is behind the Baseball Prospectus subscriber wall, though I can tell you that he has the Yankees taking high school outfielder Williams Jerez with that 51st overall pick. I wrote about him here, though I wouldn’t be completely in love with that pick. That’s not to say it would be bad, Jerez’s talent is worthy of that draft spot, he’s just a little too raw for my liking.

Draft Chats

In his marathon chat this morning, Frankie Piliere reiterated the Yankees’ interest in four high school players: RHP Dillon Howard, SS Brandon Martin, 3B/OF Tyler Goeddel, and LHP Jake Cave. We’ve heard that before. He adds that they’ll probably take high school OF Josh Bell if he’s still available, unless they truly believe he won’t sign. Law, meanwhile, said he believes that Goeddel will be off the board before the Yankees’ pick in his chat this afternoon. That would bum me out, I’m a fan of the kid. Barring something completely unexpected, the Yankees are very likely to take a prep player with that 51st overall pick. I approve.

Draft Things To Know

I enjoyed this post from David Cone favorite Jeff Sullivan, which breaks down some of things you should know heading into the draft if you’ve never been here before. I have one thing to add: “A ‘projectable’ player is tall and skinny.” That last part is important. If a player is tall and has already filled out, then he has “a good body.” This is of paramount importance, I assure you.

The almost average Nick Swisher

It hasn’t been too long since we last checked in on Nick Swisher. He used the start of the road trip to boost his then-abysmal season numbers, going 6 for 20 and hitting .300/.462/.650 in the first six games out west. In Anaheim he went 2 for 9, but with a double, a homer, and three walks. That brings his season numbers to .215/.342/.348. It might not look good, but you’ll be surprised at how close he has gotten to league average.

This caught me off guard, too, since Swisher stumbled for most of the season until last week. But lost in the downturn of his numbers is the downturn of offense around the league. The league average wOBA right now is .316, down from .321 last year and .329 in 2009. That changes the expectations somewhat, since Swisher can provide the same production while producing lower traditional stats. We can see this in last year’s numbers, when Swisher had an OBP 12 points lower than in 2009. Despite that, and despite a lower ISO, he still managed a higher wOBA. That’s because league-wide production dropped, as you can see in the average wOBA.

Right now Swisher has a .311 wOBA, putting him just five points below league average. What would it take for him to reach that average mark? If he goes 2 for 4 with a walk and a double against the Red Sox on Tuesday, his wOBA will jump to .319. Even if he’s 2 for 4 with two singles and a walk, he’ll be at .317. Hell, if Franklin Gutierrez doesn’t reach over the wall and pull back his homer in Seattle, he’d be on the border of league average right now. With a decent series this week against the Sox, he’ll almost certainly return to that level. All won’t be right with the universe, but it will be a lot closer.

Of course, for Swisher to be of value to the Yankees he has to be more than a league average player. The baseline, really, is league average right fielder. In that regard, he has a long way to go. The league average right fielder this year has a .348 wOBA. If he repeats the road trip on the current homestand — 8 for 29 with two doubles, three homers, and nine walks — he’ll only be at .336. If we give him a few more singles he’ll be up over .340. In any case, unless he goes on a monstrous tear, he’s going to be below the average right fielder for at least the next four or five series.

At this point in the season, though, getting Swisher’s numbers back to the average right fielder is a mere formality. It’s something that will look a bit nicer in retrospect, and perhaps help put the slow start behind him (and us, as fans). What matters is that he continues producing. If his numbers grade out just barely above average by season’s end, we know that he’ll have produced at an above-average for the last four months of the season. That is, he probably won’t produce enough to reach his normal numbers, but we can forget about that now. What matters is that he continues doing it. That might mean it takes him a while to reach the level of a league average right fielder. Thankfully, it also means that he’ll have been hitting like an above-average one for a while once he gets there.

Something else to keep in mind is how Swisher’s slump looks worse due to its place during the season. We’ve seen him get off to good starts in the past, and so his numbers tend to look better at this point. This slump essentially covered 162 PA, from April 7th to May 25th. He’s had similar slumps in the past. For instance, last year he hit .243/.313/.382 from August 3rd to September 29th (150 PA). In May of 2009 he hit .150/.311/.275, and for May and June that month he hit .201/.343/.390 (200 PA). Yet he ended both of those seasons with excellent numbers. We might yet see a torrid streak from Swisher.