Yankees select Henry with first pick
Bombers take high school shortstop at No. 17
MILWAUKEE -- The last Yankees first-round pick to make an impact in the Bronx was Derek Jeter, who was drafted sixth overall in 1992.
Tuesday, New York selected another high school shortstop in the first round, taking C.J. Henry from Putnam City High School in Oklahoma City with the 17th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
Henry was a two-sport star at Putnam City, excelling in both baseball and basketball. He hit .481 with 13 home runs, 41 RBIs, 52 runs scored and 21 stolen bases in his senior season while averaging 22 points per game for the hoops team.
But Henry, who turned 19 on May 31, may not make an impact at his natural position. At least not if his timetable for reaching the Majors is anywhere close to reality.
"I think once I concentrate fully on baseball, I think I'll surprise everybody with how good I can be," Henry said. "Maybe two or three years from now, I'll be able to make it to the show."
Of course, Jeter will still be the Yankees' shortstop at that time, as the captain is signed through the 2010 season. Jeter will turn 31 later this month, so he won't be vacating the shortstop position any time soon.
That said, Henry has been told by the Yankees that he will begin his pro career as a shortstop, though a move to another position remains a possibility down the line.
"I know he's there, I know he's a great player, but I'm not too worried about it," Henry said of Jeter. "I know I can play any position on the field, I just have to work hard to get the chance to reach the big leagues."
Baseball America ranked the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Henry as the second-best high school athlete in the draft, behind only Justin Upton, who was taken first overall by the Diamondbacks.
"We spent a lot of time scouting him, all the way back to watching him play basketball," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of scouting. "He's a guy that can play in the middle of the diamond, is very athletic and has the kind of skills that made him very attractive to us."
Henry, who orally committed to the University of Kansas to play basketball, is expected to sign with the Yankees and begin his professional baseball career.
"It was a factor that we weighed," Oppenheimer said of Henry's potential as a basketball player. "But we were assured by them that he wants to be a baseball player. He sees his future in baseball and not in the NBA."
"I've always wanted to play baseball over basketball," said Henry, whose father, Carl, played in the NBA. "Basketball is something I'm good at, but I always wanted to play baseball. As soon as a deal can get done, I'd like to get it done and be playing in Tampa."
Some people have compared Henry to players such as Vernon Wells and Gary Sheffield, and he should only get better once he commits himself to baseball on a full-time basis.
Putnam City High School
Position: SS B/T: R/R
H: 6'3" W: 205
Born: 1986-05-31 Class: HS
Built similar to Alex Rodriguez. Similar kinds of ability. Puts some strength into a slightly uppercut swing. Home run power from alley to alley. Quick and agile in the infield w/ sure hands. Likes to run. Good instincts on the base paths. Makes everything look easy.
"I don't get into comparisons, but he has very good tools, skills and athleticism," Oppenheimer said. "We think he has the tools, makeup and ability to be a great player."
Henry is the first shortstop selected by New York in the first round since Jeter, though he is the second infielder to be taken by the club in the first round in the past three years, joining 2003 first-rounder Eric Duncan, who is the third baseman at Double-A Trenton.
Henry said that third base and center field are his best positions after shortstop, though Alex Rodriguez is also signed through 2010, making the outfield Henry's likely destination should he switch positions.
"My athletic ability will allow me to play anywhere on the field. I can adjust," Henry said. "How hard is outfield? I've played outfield before and it comes easy to me. I don't think that would be a problem."
If Henry's talent and ability come close to matching his confidence, the Yankees may have found their next homegrown star.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.