On day one of the draft, the Royals selected Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross with the #9 overall pick, then chose Arkansas third baseman Cayden Wallace with their pick in the second round. Here are some reactions to their first day selections.
The Royals say that Gavin Cross will start his career in centerfield.
“We’re going to send Gavin out to center field, and we feel he can play center field,” said Royals scouting director Danny Ontiveros, in his first year as head of the scouting department. “If there’s a point in time where he moves right or left, he’s going to be plus. ... “There’s versatility. He can play all three (positions), but he’s a center fielder right now.”
Scouting director Danny Ontiveros talks about Cross and second-round pick Cayden Wallace.
“First of all, the makeup on both these players is exceptional,” Royals director of scouting Danny Ontiveros said. “They’re winners. They’re athletes. Analytically, they check out. They just checked a lot of boxes for us, and they’re two players that we scouted a lot.
“There’s a comfort level all the way through with our whole process. We think they’re both going to be potential middle-of-the-order bat guys.”
Vice President of Player Personnel Lonnie Goldberg thinks it was a great haul for day one.
“It was important we walked out of today with baseball players that were versatile, that could do a lot of what you see in the Major League team now, what went on in [the weekend series in Toronto], with a lot of versatile players that could play multiple positions,” Royals vice president of player personnel Lonnie Goldberg said. “When that pick was traded, we also look at those three players as part of our Draft.
“If you think about what we added in that trade and what we added today, pretty good haul for the first day of the Draft.”
Here is Gavin talking about being selected.
Gavin Cross on joining the #Royals: “Just surreal, man. I got a really good relationship with Danny and the whole staff. The draft is crazy. I didn’t know how it was going to work out. Just blessed to be in this position and thankful to everyone who has helped me get here.”— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) July 18, 2022
Here is the moment they announced the pick and the family found out.
“I don’t think the moment is ever too big for him,” Virginia Tech coach John Szefc told The Roanoke Times. “I think No. 1, he’s good enough. And No. 2, he’s played in big situations, so I don’t think he’s going to run into a situation where the moment’s too big.
“I think you’ll see him play this game for a long time — in a lot bigger ballparks than this one in front of a lot more people.”
He has been a clutch hitter in a lot of situations, writes Tim Hayes of the Bristol Herald.
“There were multiple occasions throughout the last two seasons — in 2022 especially — where Cross just seemed cool, calm and collected in big pressure at-bats,” said Chris Hirons, a writer for TechSideline.com.
Cross has an innate ability to not be overwhelmed by the moment and to not get too high or too low. It’s a mentality one must have in a sport that’s season is a grind and features more failures than successes at the plate.
“I don’t get too flustered, because I always know there’s another at-bat or another game,” Cross said. “I just try to stay level-headed.”
His dad Adam was a minor league player who got into coaching and scouting.
“Obviously I have a love for the game, but he’s the one that introduced it to me,” Gavin Cross said. “All the foundational stuff with my swing and knowledge of the game; how to play the game and how to control your emotions in the game all stems from him. He’s coached me since I was 4-years-old and still does now.”
Cross is gonna get some BBQ from George Brett.
Cross hosted a watch party tonight with about 150 of his closest friends and family. After being drafted No. 9 overall by the #Royals, he got a congratulatory call from George Brett, who said he would cook some barbecue when Cross got to KC.— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) July 18, 2022
The Royals also picked up some power with Arkansas Razorbacks third baseman Cayden Wallace, which the analysts at MLB Network loved.
“I love this pick for the Royals,” former Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said on MLB Network’s coverage of the draft. “I think this kid is just scratching the surface. He’s a tick away in pitch recognition skills, to me, from really taking off. He’s got power to all fields. He’s an exceptional athlete.
“There’s just a ton to like about this kid.”
O’Dowd said the Royals got “great surplus value” with their pick of Wallace. MLB.com senior writer Jim Callis said he expected Wallace to be taken about 20 picks earlier in the first round of the draft.
“He looked great in the NCAA postseason with Arkansas going to the College World Series, making great plays at third,” Callis said on MLB Network. “I think he’s an underrated athlete. I think people focus on the power but he’s not just a slugger. At worst he’s a good right fielder, and I think he could be a good third baseman.”
Cayden Wallace is a great pick for the @Royals. Some of the best raw power in the college class, and combines that with average contact rates and a good approach, rarely chasing and punishing balls in the zone. Double-plus arm strength and a plus run tool round out the package. pic.twitter.com/G3F03r6IhL— Eephus Tosser (@EephusTosser) July 18, 2022
I thought Wallace would work his way into the 1st round this year. Love getting him at #49. He improved over his frosh season just not quite what everyone had expected.— Blank (@ClintScoles) July 18, 2022
Keep him at 3B! Excellent defender https://t.co/caJ4aley9g— Mike Ferrin (@Mike_Ferrin) July 18, 2022
Alec Lewis goes behind the scenes and talks to the scout Tim Bittner, who was in on Cross early.
As it relates to the Royals’ overall whittling-down process, the timeline drifts back to the spring. Months ago, Ontiveros said, the club’s scouting staff met and confirmed that they were going to focus on the abundance of talented college hitters. From there, Ontiveros said they identified players they wanted to send cross-checkers to go see.
Cross and Wallace, included.
Fortunately, the Royals’ area scouts had a foundation with both players. Wallace was a highly touted high school player in Greenbrier, Ark., so Price had evaluated his strides both with the bat and in the field. Cross, meanwhile, had been on Bittner’s radar since he set foot on Virginia Tech’s campus.
“When he stepped on campus, I remember talking to (Virginia Tech) coach John Szefc and him saying, ‘Look, this guy is different. He’s wired differently,’” Bittner said. “He started throwing out some names he had coached in the past such as Jonathan Lucroy. He just said, ‘Look, man, this guy is different.’”
Baseball America writes that the Royals added two bats that could rise quickly.
The Royals added a strong pair of college performers in Cross and Wallace, as both have a strong combination of power and bat-to-ball skills, as well as defensive profiles at premium positions. Cross has the ability to play center field long term with good athleticism. He’s a well-rounded player at the plate who could see increased power production with added loft to his fairly linear bat path. Wallace is a strong-armed slugger who has played third base as well as the corner outfield positions. While there’s certainly going to be some swing and miss as he climbs the minor league ladder, Wallace was able to keep his strikeouts in check while hitting for power in college baseball’s toughest conference. The Royals landed two fast-moving college position players with upside.
Keith Law writes that this is a “safer” pick than last year.
The Royals did end up going college, after a lot of talk all spring that they were going to go for an upside guy like Justin Crawford or even Brock Porter. It makes sense for them to take someone safer after a draft in 2021 that was high-risk/high-reward, built around three high school pitchers, all of whom have had their ups and downs in pro ball this year. Cross is a traditional power bat who’ll move to the corner outfield, with a solid approach, good left-handed swing and 20-25 homer power. Given the success they’ve had with developing hitters in the last two years, I could see him advancing very quickly in their system.
Eric Longenhagen at Fangraphs writes the Royals went chalk with their picks.
Nothing too cute here, the Royals just took two good college hitters in about the spots I had them ranked. Gavin Cross has a well-rounded offensive skill set and a decent shot to stay in center field. Cayden Wallace, who is young for the college class, hit for power against SEC pitching for two years, though he has some whiff risk.
Mike Axisa at CBS Sports gives the Royals a solid grade for their pick.
Cross is a perfectly fine corner-outfield prospect who trended in the right direction this season, improving his walk and strikeout rates and upping his power production. He played center field this spring, but he’s expected to wind up in a corner. Grade: B
Joel Rueter at Bleacher Report likes the pick even more.
The present and future of the Royals outfield is a major question mark, and this helps plug at least one hole in the long-term picture. Cross is a relatively safe pick with impact upside, and that’s the type of player the Royals should be targeting at this stage in their rebuild.
Edward Sutelan at The Sporting News also thinks Cross could rise quickly.
This is about where many expected Cross would land, and indeed, Kansas City, here he comes. Cross has a well-rounded profile with above-average tools across the board and a skill set that could allow him to move quickly through the minors. The Royals have a lot of their top prospects in the upper minors or already making an impact in the majors, and Cross shouldn’t take long to join them.
The #Royals landing Gavin Cross is a good get. Much louder tools than he's given credit for. Plus arm. Above average runner. Plus raw power. Average hit, maybe a tick better. Probably fell a bit because he didn't have a massive year. Upside play.— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) July 18, 2022
Alex Duvall at Royals Farm Report loved the first day of the draft from the Royals.
We did draft grades on the podcast last night, and I gave both picks an A- individually and I’m giving the Royals an A for the night. Like I said, it would be hypocritical of me to beg them to draft college hitters all spring and then not give them a good grade when they draft two college hitters with their first two picks of the draft. I love the process. Cross wouldn’t have been my first choice at #9. Wallace is a great pick at #49. Even if you don’t love the players, I LOVE the process (and love the Wallace pick as well). This was a great night for the Kansas City Royals and might be a preview into a fundamental shift in how the organization drafts moving forward under new scouting director Danny Ontiveros.
Jordan Foote at Inside the Royals likes the infusion of power in the organization.
From an offensive standpoint, both Cross and Wallace fit quite well into what the Royals want and need. They project as middle-of-the-order bats who can drive the ball into the gaps of Kauffman Stadium and even get a decent amount of them out of the ballpark. Cross’s all-around profile is impressive at the plate, and Wallace is a fix or two away from being a legitimate threat with his bat. Kansas City needed an injection of both power and upside in its minor league ranks as it attempts to construct a contending big-league team in due time, and these additions serve as just that.
Fans seemed fine with the Cross pick, although some lamented on passing on third baseman Cam Collier of Chipola Junior College.
Meh. Gavin Cross is a fine pick. He can hit, and he's a good athlete, and most importantly, he's not a pitcher. An hour ago, if you had told me the Royals would pick Gavin Cross, I would have been fine.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) July 18, 2022
But the way the board fell, it just feels like a missed opportunity.
I really wanted Cam but Gavin Cross can hit. I’m good with it— Jason Anderson (@J810Anderson) July 18, 2022
Got to do the draft write up for Gavin Cross for the @RoyalsFarm MLB Draft Guide. Been Gavin Cross or bust from day one.— Jared Perkins (@JaredCP1) July 18, 2022
Amped to see the Royals get him at 1.9! Love his tools across the board. College ready bat that could make a quick ascend to the big leagues. #togetherroyal
Cross was on my good list so I’m happy. Not as happy as I could have been, but happy.— David Lesky (@DBLesky) July 18, 2022
I like the Cayden Wallace pick.— Clubhouse Convo (@royalsclubhouse) July 18, 2022
I think Gavin Cross is fine but had my heart set on Lou Collier’s son (loved watching him growing up and think Cam has tools for days).
These picks plus the ATL draft pick trade tell me that Dayton & JJ know that their time is running out.
Royals get a B from me for the first night.— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) July 18, 2022
Very chalk, which is better than it sounds. Picking the best players available is always a good strategy. Like Cross and Wallace is fine. Think I would have liked to have the comp pick but can't unburn toast.
Ok Dayton picking a guy named Cross is a bit on the nose don't ya think— Hunter Samuels (@HunterSamuels) July 18, 2022
How would you grade day one of the draft for the Royals?
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