MLB Draft, Day 1: KC Royals deserve good grades

(Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Major League Baseball rolled out its annual amateur draft Sunday night and, by the time the first night’s festivities ended over five hours after they started, the KC Royals’ first two picks were in the books.

Those selections are conspicuous for the bats the Royals acquired. They picked Gavin Cross, a power hitting outfielder from Virginia Tech, in the first round with the ninth overall pick, then added more power when they chose Arkansas infielder Cayden Wallace in the second round with the 49th overall selection.

Kansas City originally had three first-night selections, but a week ago traded their Competitive Balance A pick to Atlanta for Drew Waters, then ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, and two other prospects.

So, what to think about Kansas City’s new pair of players and how Day 1 went?

The KC Royals went for power in Round 1 and got it with Gavin Cross.

That Kansas City would depart at least slightly from its recent draft focus on pitching became apparent early Sunday evening when the club opted for the big bat Cross carries. He’s a fast and powerful outfielder who’ll bolster the franchise’s organizational depth in that area.

Picking Cross at No. 9 was commensurate with mlb.com’s latest rankings, which rated him the 10th best prospect in the draft, and with our Preston Farr’s recent evaluation of four hitters the Royals needed to be thinking about Sunday.

And Farr also had this story about Cross soon after the Royals picked him last night.

KC’s quest for power didn’t end with Cross.

The KC Royals picked up more power when they took Cayden Wallace in Round 2.

Kansas City is a bit unsettled at third base. Emmanuel Rivera plays there frequently but isn’t showing the kind of consistently good offense expected from corner infielders. Hunter Dozier’s bat may be good enough, but his glove usually isn’t. Bobby Witt Jr. started this season at the hot corner before becoming the club’s regular shortstop.

The franchise has others who they might try at third, including Nate Eaton, who received a taste of the majors when summoned as one of the replacements for Royals whose vaccination status prohibited them from making the recent road trip to Toronto. But he’s playing more outfield than infield these days, suggesting that’s his long-term future.

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Now, Kansas City might have another third baseman to develop. That’s because the Royals drafted Wallace, Arkansas’ 2022 third sacker, with their second round pick Sunday. He won’t get to the majors in time to help out at third this season, and probably not before the Royals settle their third base situation, but he’s a good bet to eventually play some position at Kauffman Stadium.

Wallace is a sturdy 6-feet-1, 205-pound infielder who hit 14 homers, drove in 44 runs, and slashed .279/.369/.500 with an .869 OPS in 60 games as an Arkansas freshman in 2021. And, playing more in the outfield than anywhere else, he didn’t make an error all season.

He was the Razorbacks’ regular third baseman this year and clubbed 16 home runs, had 60 RBIs, and slashed .298/.387/.553 with a .940 OPS. He also stole 12 bases.

Wallace can definitely play third, but his outfield experience could tempt the Royals to move him around as needed. And with his power, a super-utility role certainly isn’t out of the question.

The KC Royals deserve good grades for their first-day 2022 MLB Draft picks.

Kansas City came to Los Angeles, the site of this year’s draft because MLB ties the event to the All-Star Game, which the Dodger host Tuesday night, with 20 chances to procure new talent. They used two of those picks Sunday night.

So far, so good.

Give the Royals an A for nabbing Gavin Cross in the first round. The club obviously realized his power made him a player who wouldn’t last long in the draft and acted accordingly. Kansas City is, at least for now, developing minor league hitting prospects well, and there’s no reason to believe its team of batting tutors can’t do the same for Cross.

The same goes for Wallace, whose power and apparent versatility are both commodities the Royals need to grab when they can.

That gives the club two A’s for its first picks of this year’s draft.

And an going into Rounds 3-10, which will be conducted today.

Hopefully, they’ll maintain that mark.

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Today’s MLB Draft action begins with Round 3 at 1 p.m. CDT. The draft concludes Tuesday with Rounds 11-20.

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