Draft Prospect Watch: A Look at Another Noteworthy College Bat

Recent mock drafts have really focused on college bats for the Pittsburgh Pirates in next month’s 2022 MLB draft. The Pirates pick fourth overall in the draft and we have already looked at ten players in our Draft Prospect Watch articles. You can find all ten here. We have covered everyone who has been connected to them, but this week and next week we will look at two of the top college hitters. Neither has been connected to the Pirates recently, but it goes without saying that if they are looking for a college bat, then two college bats rated among the top ten prospects in the entire draft class should be on their radar.

We start this week with outfielder Gavin Cross of Virginia Tech. He’s currently rated #9 by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. The 21-year-old is a lefty bat, who stands in at 6’3″, 210 pounds. In 57 games this year, he hit .328/.411/.660 with 14 doubles, eight triples, 17 homers, a 30:41 BB/SO ratio, and he went 12-for-12 in steals. That triple slash line looks strong, but he was only the fifth best hitter on the team, though first place was only 63 points ahead of them, so they were a closely bunched group. The team had seven starters with at least 12 homers.

Drafting isn’t all about stats, it’s about tools. Pipeline rates Cross as a 55 hitter, with 55 power. His speed is also rated as a 55, while he gets average marks on defense and arm. In comparison, Baseball American rates him as a 55 hitter, with 60 power. They have 50 grades for the defense and running. Those are basically the same rankings, as a 1/2 grade difference isn’t much. However, BA gives him a 60-grade arm, so that’s quite a difference between the two rankings.

According to Pipeline, Cross didn’t get much attention in high school, but he’s been strong during all three years in college, including his time in summer ball. They give him a chance to be an above average hitter with above average power and note that there were some questions about his ability to make consistent hard contact, but he has improved on that during his junior season. He plays center field, but they believe he’s a corner outfielder at the next level, who could also play first base.

Baseball America notes that he made improvements in his approach at the plate this year, increasing his walks and cutting down on his strikeouts. They believe that he has easy plus power to all fields, but might end up as a low OBP/high slugging percentage guy in the majors. Part of that belief comes from the fact that he punishes fastballs, including higher velocity pitchers, but he can be exposed by good breaking balls/off-speed pitches. BA also believes he will end up as a corner outfield, despite what they say is him looking impressive in center field this year. The also mention that he has a plus arm.

You could see a path to the Pirates drafting him, but it would have to be a scout who sees the best of both reports here. I don’t think a low OBP slugging corner outfielder goes fourth overall, at least not in a year with strong talent at the top. However, if he’s an above average hitter with plus power, above average speed and a plus arm, then maybe it happens. It might be a case of the Pirates picking a top ten talent who allows them to spend more of the bonus pool elsewhere.

Here are some videos:

This first one from Prospects Live is all game action, with looks from different angles.

Prospects Worldwide has a game video

Keanan Lamb has a game video with the pregame batting practice

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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