KC Royals Prospects: Catching up with Pipeline's 5 best

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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KC Royals top prospect No. 2: Pitcher Ben Kudrna

Kansas City baseball fans knew of Ben Kudrna even before the Royals picked him in the second round of the 2021 draft—the righthander pitched at nearby Blue Valley Southwest High School and was Gatorade's 2020-2021 Baseball Player of the Year for Kansas.

Kudrna began his minor league career last season and went 2-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 17 starts at Columbia. He returned to the Fireflies this year and is 1-2, 7.80 across three starts and a relief appearance. The Royals aren't likely to rush Kudrna's progress, so don't be surprised if he spends the entire season at Columbia.

KC Royals top prospect No. 1: Outfielder Gavin Cross

Kansas City's brass had to be excited, if not overjoyed, when Virginia Tech's Gavin Cross was still available when their first turn to pick came during last summer's draft. Cross, one of the top outfield and hitting prospects in the country, gave the organization a power bat and good glove.

Cross signed, reported for minor league duty immediately, and didn't disappoint. He hit .500 with a homer and three RBIs in three Rookie-level games, then .293 with a .423 OBP and seven homers in 26 Low-A contests. This spring, he played five Cactus League games with the Royals and went 5-for-9 with a double, triple, and home run.

His excellent first, but short, minor league season, and probably what he showed in spring training, earned Cross a promotion to High-A Quad Cities for 2023, but all is not well. Although he went 2-for-5 and drove in a run against Great Lakes Wednesday, he's hitting a disconcerting .173/.258/.321. Chances are it's a slump he'll soon break out of, but a full season with the River Bandits may be best for his development—like Kudrna, Cross isn't a player the organization is going to rush to the majors.

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