For the fourth year in a row, the KC Royals had one of the first 10 picks in the MLB Draft. Choosing ninth this time, they took power hitting outfielder Gavin Cross from Virginia Tech Sunday evening.
There was some shakeup early in the first round after Texas selected pitcher Kumar Rocker at third overall: MLB.com’s final mock draft had Rocker going 24th. Aside from that surprise, the first five picks were at least consistent with expectations with Jackson Holliday going first to Baltimore, Druw Jones second to Arizona, Termarr Johnson fourth to Pittsburgh, and Elijah Green fifth to Washington.
Then, with Jacob Berry going to Miami with the sixth pick and Brooks Lee to Minnesota at No. 8, four of MLB.com’s top 10 draft prospects were on the board for the taking when the Royals went on the clock. Cross ranked ninth.
The KC Royals’ first 2022 pick adds big upside to the team’s farm system.
Cross played college baseball at Virginia Tech and was one of four hitters we recently said KC should consider early in the draft. In three seasons with the Hokies, he slashed .340/.412/.609. Cross satisfies a need for more system outfield depth and should earn a place as the team’s top outfield prospect at some point.
Although Cross has played center field most recently, MLB.com believes he may be better in one of the corners. Joe Doyle of Prospects Live also likes him:
The plus power is perhaps the biggest draw to Cross for the Royals. Per a Prospects Live December draft preview, “…both his max exit velocity and average exit velocity ranked inside the top 25 for qualified players in college baseball last spring. He’s an aggressive hitter who isn’t afraid to ambush pitches early in the count, aiming to pull the ball with authority as much as possible.”
There’s obvious similarity to Kansas City first baseman-designated hitter Vinnie Pasquantino in Gavin Cross at the plate. Both hit for tremendous power and pair it with keen eyes at the plate; Cross posted a 10.7 BB% and 14.6 K% for the Hokies this season.
Also like Pasquantino, Cross can hit for massive pull power. He slugged .660 in his final season at Virginia Tech with 17 home runs in just 57 games. The difference in his game, when compared to Pasquantino’s, is his speed: he’s a plus runner to whom MLB.com assigns a 55-grade run tool.
Cross joins a Kansas City farm system currently boasting three outfielders who rank in the top 10 among MLB Pipeline’s rankings of the organization’s best prospects: recently-acquired Drew Waters is eighth, Erick Peña is ninth and Darryl Collins is 22nd.
It may take some time for MLB Pipeline to update the team’s top prospects and include Cross, but he’ll likely land in the top 10. The timeline for his arrival in the major leagues will depend on his performance in the minor leagues, but it’s possible he’ll ready for big league action sometime in 2024.
The Royals picked a promising power hitting outfielder with their first 2022 draft pick Sunday evening.