Yankee vice president of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer fired back, albeit a bit passive aggressively, at some of the criticism he’s received since picking Cito Culver last night with the Yankees’ first-round pick.

“The main ranking that means something to me is the ranking our guys have,” Oppenheimer said this morning on a conference call. “I had over 100 years of scouting experience go and see this kid. All my cross checkers who have doing this a long time…come back with a thumbs up. That means more to me than the public opinion of Baseball America or some other publications that aren’t able to get out to these places and see these kids.”

Oppenheimer said at the time the Yankees picked Culver “was the highest position player we had left on the board.”

Culver was projected by Baseball America to go between the fourth and sixth rounds, but Oppenheimer said the shortstop wouldn’t have lasted to even the 82nd overall pick – the next time the Yankees pick – in the second round.

“Right after we did pick him I got a call from one of our competitors who’s very successful in this…he wouldn’t have gotten to 82,” Oppenheimer said.

Oppenheimer said “you always keep your mind open,” but said Culver, whose biggest attribute is considered his arm, projects as a shortstop. And not just because of what he can do in the field.

“We like him from both sides of the plate,” Oppenheimer said. “We think he’s going to be an above average hitter.”

Culver has committed to Maryland and some publications have speculated he’ll be difficult to sign. Oppenheimer doesn’t see it that way.

“He really wants to be a Yankee,” he said. “I think we’re going to get him signed and out playing pretty soon. This guy really has passion to make it through the minor leagues and play in New York.”

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