Gavin Cross has had an impressive start to his collegiate career at Virginia Tech.
Cross broke onto the national scene last year after displaying encouraging results in a 16-game season his first year in 2020. He had a tremendous spring and then performed at an elite level with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer. He was Team USA’s top hitter, posting a .455 average with four home runs in 11 games.
Cross’ success put him squarely on the radar of professional scouts. After receiving little pro interest out of the Tennessee high school ranks in 2019, Cross is one of the top college hitters in the 2022 MLB draft class. Scouts project Cross as a potential first-round pick in this year’s draft.
If a team selects Cross in the first round, it will mark Virginia Tech’s first first-rounder since left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders went 12th overall in 2002.
“A lot of the draft interest came after this summer,” Cross said. “I’m embracing the fact that I need to have a good year. If I do that, I know I will be in a good position. I am not trying to back away or act like it’s not there because I know it’s there. I am just trying to put too much pressure on myself and go out there and play like I did last year.”
During the college recruiting process, Cross considered Duke, Liberty, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech was a natural fit for Cross. The university is 90 minutes from his home, and he developed a strong relationship with the coaches throughout the recruiting process.
As a freshman at Virginia Tech, Cross hit .369 with eight RBIs and seven stolen bases in 65 at-bats in the pandemic-shortened season.
The taste of college baseball helped Cross as a sophomore last year. He hit .345 with 13 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs and 35 RBIs in 203 at-bats in 51 games. He also stole nine bases.
“I wasn’t really talked about in the draft out of high school,” Cross said. “Over the last three years, I have transformed myself and put myself in a good position with the draft. I still have a long way to go, but I think I have improved every year. I really made a big jump from my freshman year to my second year. It was really when I separated myself from other people.”
Cross is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-handed hitting outfielder who drives the ball to all parts of the field. He also hits for plenty of power. Cross might have the best hit tool in the college class.
Defensively, Cross has mostly played right field at Virginia Tech. He will stick in right field long-term, as he has above-average arm strength and athleticism.
“My bat-to-ball ability and baseball IQ are my biggest strengths,” Cross said. “I feel like I am pretty good at all the aspects of the game.”
This season, Cross will play a key role for Virginia Tech. Last year, the Hokies lost their final eight games, including two in the ACC Championships, to post a 27-25 record.
The Hokies hope they can use last year as a learning experience. They will have to replace four players selected in the 2021 draft and play more consistently this spring to build off last season.
The Hokies will be seeking their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2013 this season.
“I hope we can be consistent,” Cross said. “Last year, we started off hot and then we dove down. I think we will have a pretty good team. We have to fill some roles on the pitching staff. But I just hope we can be consistent and have fun. Sometimes I think we take baseball a little too serious at times.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.