With the 2022 MLB amateur draft approaching on July 17, we will continue taking looks at some potential draft prospects for the Royals at #9. I last wrote about Jud Fabian, a boom-or-bust type outfielder out of Florida that Kansas City could look at for an underslot deal. Today, we’ll look at a less risky prospect with perhaps a lower ceiling: Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross.
Cross hails from Bristol, Tennessee. His father, Adam, briefly played minor league ball from 1995-’97. Cross starred on the baseball team at Tennessee High, earning varsity letters all four years as well as four first-team all-conference selections, three all-region selections, and two first-team all-state selections. He went undrafted in 2019 and began his career at Virginia Tech in 2020.
Virginia Tech played just 16 games in 2020 before Covid shut down the season. Cross started all 16 of those games for the Hokies, 15 of which were in right field. He went 24-for-71 with four walks and just 10 strikeouts, but 23 of those hits were singles, leading to a funny-looking slash line of .369/.409/.385. He also stole seven bases.
Cross returned for the 2021 season a completely different hitter. He homered in the team’s second game and recorded extra-base hits in four of the next five games. This was the start of a breakout season for Cross as he would go on to slash .345/.415/.621 with 13 doubles, five triples, and 11 homers. He also stole nine bases, but was caught four times. Cross and the Hokies’ season ended on a sour note, however, losing their last eight games and missing the NCAA Tournament. Cross went just 5-for-32 (.156) with a double and no walks in those last eight. For his efforts, Cross was named to the All-ACC First Team and to the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.
Cross took over as the starting center fielder for the 2022 season and was widely expected to be one of the best players in the game. He did not disappoint, beginning the season on a 14-game hit streak and never looking back. Cross would spend the season anchoring a strong Virginia Tech lineup and starting 53 of the team’s 57 games in center. He slashed .328/.411/.660 with 14 doubles, eight triples, 17 homers, and 12 stolen bases without being caught. Compared to 2021, he increased his ISO (.276 to .332) and his walk rate (7.3% to 10.7%) while slashing his strikeouts (20.5% to 14.6%). The Hokies also improved, reaching the Super Regionals in postseason play. Cross performed well in the postseason, going 11-27 with three homers in six games.
Gavin Cross is so good at baseball. I also love this homerun call pic.twitter.com/6VZ3cm0veb— Stephen Schoch (@bigdonkey47) June 11, 2022
Cross is widely regarded as one of the ten or so best players available in this year’s draft. Here are some of his rankings according to various outlets:
- D1Baseball ($): 5 (among college players)
- MLB Pipeline: 10
- Prospects Live: 7
- Keith Law (The Athletic, $): 10
- Kiley McDaniel (ESPN, $): 10
McDaniel comps Cross to 2019 fourth overall pick JJ Bleday: “steady, well-rounded corner bat with strong performance, plus power and a high probability hit tool.” He has a solid present hit tool and has shown improved strike zone recognition over the past year. While he showed good power at Virginia Tech, Law remarks that Cross “strides too far at the plate, without transferring his weight as he does so, which cuts off some of his power potential and can leave him unable to drive anything on the outer half.” Perhaps with some swing changes Cross could unlock even more power. He has the speed to swipe some bases in pro ball, but he likely won’t be able to stick in center. He has a strong arm and would likely be a plus in right. The Hokies also played him occasionally at first base, but that would be something of a waste of his athleticism and arm.
If you dare to dream big, perhaps Cross unlocks that extra power, the hit tool remains strong, and he becomes Kyle Tucker. I’m not convinced he has that kind of ceiling. He’s more likely a hit-over-power corner type: think Alex Verdugo, David Peralta, or Andrew Benintendi. That may not sound exciting, but Cross is one of the safer bets near the top of the draft and has a good probability of sticking as a regular. Accessing his untapped raw power will be the difference between a cromulent hitter and an impact bat.
Cross has been linked to the Royals previously. Baseball America mocks Cross to the Royals in their latest mock draft, and McDaniel did the same last month. As Alex Duvall said on the most recent Royals Farm Report podcast, this means we can safely rule out the Royals drafting Gavin Cross. Still, it’s fun to think about.
What do you think of Gavin Cross at #9?
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