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

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eric.tanner

my hope is we come out of the draft with either Cam Collier or Elijah Green

Danatural08

Makes sense to take a look due to his ratings, but hard pass, would take Brock Jones CF Stanford & Drew Gilbert CF Tennessee, both over Gavin. In the big games Cross was quiet. Much better options at 4

RAS TN

Geez, another left-handed hitter, what happened to the day when if you were lefthanded they made you hit righthanded etc…

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I know Murph approves of this college bat lol

joesolo6181

I will pass. The team should not be married to a college hitter when the H.S. hitters have more tools and potential. It would be nice to repeat last years harvest but just maybe the best player available at four is the way to go. If they want a college bat why not Collier?

Tintin049

He’s simply not a top four. I want the best player on the board. I don’t want a compromise pick here to get better later.
If we are going safe and playing the cap game, let’s do it with the 1A or 2nd round pick.

roberto

While chappy is right, I think, given the prospect talent, you are looking for a high-reward, high-risk talent. Might get a guy who never plays in the bigs, but . . . .

chappy

How do we know?
McClanahan, whom we faced today and who may win the Cy Young, was the 31st pick in ‘18.
Mike Trout anyone? This isn’t a science, this is human observation attempting to project out.

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