Best Developments for KC in 2022: Drafting Gavin Cross

Welcome to part four of I don’t know how many. Here are the links to the ones I’ve written already:

Let’s get right down to it, I was not the biggest fan of the decision to draft Gavin Cross on draft night this past July. Cam Collier inexplicably fell to the Royals pick at #9, something I could not have imagined happening five minutes before it actually happened, and we all know that I was a bigger fan of Jace Jung than Gavin Cross. With all of that being said, Gavin Cross absolutely crushed professional pitching after he was drafted and showed much more loft on his swing than I anticipated coming out of Virginia Tech.

Let’s take a look at how Cross performed compared to Collier and Jung in their first go at professional pitching:

  • Cross (21, Low-A)
    • .293/.423/.596/1.019
    • 0.71 BB/K
    • .303 ISO
    • 174 wRC+
  • Collier (17, Rookie)
    • .370/.514/.630/1.144
    • 1.17 BB/K
    • .259 ISO
    • 204 wRC+
  • Jung (21, High-A)
    • .231/.373/.333/.706
    • 0.89 BB/K
    • .102 ISO
    • 106 wRC+

Jung showed better plate discipline than Cross did at a higher level, but he was injured a bit toward the end of his college season and his power has been pretty well zapped for some time now. Six of one, half a dozen of the other in that regard, but I still feel pretty confident that having Jung instead of Cross long-term would be a fine alternative.

Cam Collier is the one I worry about. Collier is going to be an 18-year old at Low-A next year and just got done walloping professional pitching as a 17-year old. Dude is supposed to be a senior in high school next year. Instead he’ll be terrorizing Low-A, I’m sure. Cross looks like he could be a big league regular within the next year and a half, but Collier still strikes me as having the potential of a perennial All-Star by the time he’s 22. We’ll see. Cross certainly justified his selection this year and I legitimately cannot wait to see how he handles the jump to High-A next year.

Alright, enough about everyone the Royals DIDN’T draft, let’s talk about how good Cross was this year.

Here’s a quick look at some of the numbers Cross posted at Virginia Tech this spring compared to Low-A this past summer:

Virginia Tech:
– 14.6% K%
– 10.7% BB%
– 16.5 PA / HR
– 7.2 PA / XBH
– 1.071 OPS

– 25.2% K%
– 17.9% BB%
– 17.6 PA / HR
– 8.8 PA / XBH
– 1.019 OPS

I think you can explain the differences in his BB/K ratio with the quality of pitching Cross was seeing in Low-A at the end of the year, but otherwise he was the same basic hitter that the Royals drafted out of VaTech. He hits the ball extremely hard quite frequently, and although the numbers may not reflect it, I genuinely feel that the Royals helped Cross engineer his swing in a way that should allow him to hit the ball over the fence more frequently long-term. I’ll try to break down some video of this eventually so I’m not just rambling subjectiveness all over the place.

Outside of being an offensive force on his own, it was also really cool to see how much Carter Jensen benefitted from having another slugger in the lineup. After Cross’ promotion to Columbia, Jensen hit .301 with a .908 OPS and *1.88* BB/K ratio in 113 PA. All of that good for a 166 wRC+ for a catcher in his first full season of professional baseball. I can’t fully explain to you with words how ridiculous a 1.88 BB/K ratio is, much less for a freaking teenager. Cross’ presence in the Fireflies lineup immediately brought some legitimacy to the team and made everyone else better by drawing some of the attention away from the younger kids in the lineup. The respect he demanded from opposing teams is legitimate and says something about how good the kid is.

Add in the fact that Cross appeared to hold his own in center field and you have the makings of a guy that’s going to crack top-100 lists before it’s all said and done. I ultimately think Cross is going to be a right fielder long-term, where his arm will be a legitimate weapon for him, but the fact that he looked pretty good in center field suggests he has the chance to be really good in the corners. Even if he makes the move to right field to begin 2023, I think his bat carries him onto most top-100 lists by midseason, which might make him the Royals only top-100 prospect before the 2023 MLB Draft.


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