Detroit Tigers 2022 MLB Draft Profile: Gavin Cross

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - APRIL 03: Gavin Cross #19 of the Virginia Tech Hokies throws the ball infield against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the eighth inning at Boshamer Stadium on April 03, 2022 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - APRIL 03: Gavin Cross #19 of the Virginia Tech Hokies throws the ball infield against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the eighth inning at Boshamer Stadium on April 03, 2022 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images) /
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Gavin Cross could be a nice pickup for the Detroit Tigers at #12

The Detroit Tigers are in desperate need for hitting prospects in their farm system, especially after focusing heavily on pitching in last year’s draft. Picking 12th overall in the 2022 MLB Draft, there should be no shortage of position players available. One of these position players is Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross.

Background

Cross is a native of Bristol, Tennessee. He wasn’t very highly touted coming out of high school, but started turning some heads when he hit .369 during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He took off even further in 2021 with an OPS well over 1.000, earning All-ACC first team honors in the process.

He has been even better in 2022 for a Virginia Tech squad that surprised a lot of people this year by finishing atop a stacked ACC in the regular season, and Cross was right in the middle of things. He’s currently slashing .335/.419/.665 with 16 homers. He’s a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes award, given to the best amateur baseball player in the country.

Cross has played a lot of centerfield for the Hokies this season, but projects more as corner guy long term. At 6-3, 210 lbs, he’s definitely has more of build for a corner outfield spot. He runs surprisingly well for his size.

In addition to his time with the Hokies, Cross also played for the USA national collegiate team last summer, where he led the team with a whopping .467 batting average. That team included potential No. 1 overall pick Jacob Berry.

Strengths

Cross hits the ball hard and has lots of raw power. Fangraphs says he has “a rare blend of power and bat control.

Here’s more of what Fangraphs has to say about him:

"“The powerful Cross had a tremendous sophomore season at Tech, slugging .621. Based on sourced data, he had two of the top 25 hardest hit balls in NCAA baseball last year and gets to it without a lot of mechanical noise.”"

Cross has a smooth, left-handed swing that immediately sticks out when you watch him hit. His breaking ball recognition has improved quite a bit this season, as has his overall plate approach.

If he can continue to be more patient at the plate, he has serious potential as a middle-of-the-order type bat.

Weaknesses

The plate approach and pitch recognition were a huge concern in 2021. He walked just 17 times compared to 48 strikeouts, with a tendency to whiff on breaking balls.

Fangraphs again has more on this concern:

"“(Cross’) breaking ball recognition is not good, and he swung and missed at them at a high rate. It’s a flaw, but not enough to completely temper excitement around the heart-of-the-order power that Cross brings to the table. He had a truncated 2021 Cape, which would have been a place to quiet those concerns. It’s likely ACC pitching will make an adjustment to Cross and feed him a steady diet of spin in 2022. How he responds to that will determine if he’s in the top five mix versus toward the back of the first round.”"

Thankfully, Cross was able to make some adjustments. He has walked almost as much as he’s struck out in 2022 (30 walks to 37 K’s, respectively). This has coincided with an increase in power production.

Defensively, as we’ve already gone over, Cross is athletic enough to play CF, but is probably better suited to play a corner. His frame and build are much more akin to corner outfielder.

Fit with Detroit Tigers

The easy answer here would be “well, he can hit, so he’s automatically a fit with the Detroit Tigers,” but that’s a copout. Let’s actually take a hard look at this.

The Tigers have virtually no outfield depth in the minor leagues, so Cross would be a welcome addition. They also don’t have a lot of good left-handed hitters, so Cross fits in that regard as well. Detroit could use a potential middle-of-the-order talent as well. The problem is, so could the 11 teams picking ahead of them.

Cross has been mocked to the Tigers several times to this point, including yesterday by MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis. This could seem like a very realistic possibility had most of the top college arms in this class not recently undergone Tommy John surgery. That means a lot of bats are expected to go early. The Minnesota Twins, for example, who pick eighth, love outfielders with Cross’ build, picking guys like Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach in recent drafts.

But if the chips fall just right, the Tigers could still land Gavin Cross. With only two picks in the top 100 and a lack of impact bats in the system, they better make those picks count.

Next. Detroit Tigers 2022 MLB Draft Profile: Elijah Green. dark

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