Yanks select Bichette's son with first pick

Yanks select Bichette's son with first pick

NEW YORK -- The Yankees were drawn to a big league pedigree as they considered their first choice in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, using it to select third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. with the 51st overall pick.

The son of the former four-time All-Star of the same name, Bichette Jr. has some impressive credentials of his own. The Orangewood Christian (Fla.) High School standout is a two-time All-Central Florida Player of the Year.

"Dante is one of the guys in this Draft we thought had an impact bat and the potential to hit for big power in the middle of the order," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of amateur scouting. "He's someone with an advanced makeup and work ethic who possesses the desire and drive to be a special Major Leaguer."

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Bichette Jr. batted a team-high .640 (55-for-86) with 58 runs, 14 doubles, 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 30 games as a senior in 2011, as Orangewood Christian fell in the Florida Class-2A state finals.

The 18-year-old has already committed to the University of Georgia, where he would be in line to be the team's starting third baseman. However, the Yankees may have a leg up in convincing him to sign a professional contract instead.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi considers the senior Bichette among his closest friends from his playing days, even naming his own son, Dante, after the former big league slugger.

"Wow! The greatest situation possible," Bichette Jr. posted on Twitter early Tuesday morning. "The New York Yankees ... incredible. But this is just a start. Now it's time to focus [and] get to work."

The senior Bichette played in 1,704 career games across parts of 14 seasons with the Angels, Brewers, Rockies, Reds and Red Sox, batting .299 with 274 home runs. One of Colorado's "Blake Street Bombers," Bichette's best season came in 1995, when he batted .340 with 40 home runs and 128 RBIs in 139 games, finishing second in the National League MVP Award vote.

A constant presence in those clubhouses where his father suited up, Bichette Jr. recently said that growing up around the Major League lifestyle taught him a lot about what to expect come Draft day and beyond.

"It's not so much that I'm feeling pressure heading into this, but there are expectations," Bichette Jr. said. "It will show me where I want to be. To be drafted high, make it to the big leagues and become a star, that's what I've always dreamed about."

The selection of Bichette marks the fourth straight year the Yankees have taken a high school player with their first selection in the First-Year Player Draft.

Bichette Jr. mostly played shortstop as a prep, but he generally projects as a third baseman or outfielder down the line. Bichette Jr. also has dabbled on the mound, serving as Orangewood Christian's closer.

A 2005 alum of the Little League World Series, when he represented Maitland, Fla., Bichette said that his father has been vital in his development -- even as he might have just as easily pursued success on the tennis court.

"I grew up also playing tennis, but he didn't push me one way or another," Bichette Jr. said. "I chose baseball, but he had already told me that no matter what I did, I would have to give 100 percent of my effort to it, and he pushed me to show that commitment. Pretty much everything I know, I've learned from him."

The Yankees did not have a first-round selection in this year's Draft, surrendering pick No. 31 to the Tampa Bay Rays as compensation for the free-agent signing of right-handed reliever Rafael Soriano. Tampa Bay used that choice to take LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook.

New York obtained the 51st pick as compensation when right-hander Javier Vazquez signed as a free agent with the Florida Marlins.

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at noon ET Tuesday on MLB.com, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player.

You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.