Conspicuously absent from Sunday's final KC Royals Cactus League game were the team's regulars, several reserves sure to make the club, and others who decision-makers, primarily general manager J.J. Picollo and manager Matt Quatraro, are still thinking about. All were off for Texas, where they'll play two final exhibition games against the Rangers before hosting Minnesota Thursday for Opening Day.
Save for pitchers Ryan Yarbrough, Carlos Hernández and Mike Mayers, who needed to get in their regular work, that left Sunday's game against the Cubs mostly in the hands of minor leaguers who won't see Kauffman Stadium anytime soon. The result was predictable: the Royals lost 5-0 to the Cubs, who played many of their stars.
But the day wasn't a total loss for Kansas City fans in attendance or watching Bally Sports' telecast. The Royals treated them to one more look at outfielder Gavin Cross who, heading into his first full professional season after playing only 26 times at Low-A Columbia last summer, is the organization's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline.
Cross disappointed at the plate, going 0-for-2 before Tyler Tolbert replaced him in center field to begin the bottom of the fourth. His glove, though, was good:
That Cross made the stellar play isn't surprising given the athleticism that contributed to the Royals' decision to make him the ninth overall selection in last summer's draft.
And the catch was only part of the fine overall performance Cross delivered during Cactus League play.
KC Royals prospect Gavin Cross let his bat do the talking this spring
Somewhat surprisingly for so inexperienced a player, Cross saw action in five exhibition games, including Sunday's. Perhaps more surprising was the success he enjoyed against the kind of pitching he's never faced before—he went 5-for-9 for a small-sample size .556/.600/.1.222 line. Those nine hits included this triple, which he ripped in his first Cactus League plate appearance:
And just days later, he clubbed this home run off Cincinnati's Hunter Strickland:
Cross will not, of course, be in Kansas City's Opening Day lineup, nor will he be on that day's active roster. The Royals aren't going to rush him; in fact, and although he slashed .293/.423/.596 with seven homers and 22 RBIs there last summer, the club may return him to Columbia to start the season. A bump up to High-A Quad Cities seems should soon follow.
Wherever he starts the 2023 campaign, and wherever he ends up in September, Cross gave the Royals and their fans something to get excited about this spring.