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GAVIN CROSS PATH TO THE PROS: The next step is the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft on Sunday

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Former Tennessee High Viking Gavin Cross will find out Sunday night which Major League team he will be signing with as the Amateur Draft starts at 7 o’clock.

Gavin Cross has worn the uniforms of many different teams since he began playing baseball.

Avoca Little League, Bristol Crusaders, Team Elite Prime, Vance Middle School, Team USA’s Collegiate national squad, the Peninsula Pilots of the Coastal Plain League, the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League, the Tennessee High Vikings and Virginia Tech Hokies among them.

He’ll be sporting the threads of a big-league organization soon and he’ll find out which one it will be this evening as the first two rounds of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft unfold.

The event begins at 7 p.m. with both ESPN and the MLB Network providing television coverage.

Cross is projected to be a top-10 pick, but he doesn’t have his heart set on one particular destination.

“Whoever trusts in me and gives me an opportunity to go out and play and work to the ultimate goal, which is to become a big leaguer and stay there,” Cross said. “Whatever team thinks I can do that and believes in me is where I want to go.”

There are plenty of believers after Cross slashed .340/.412/.609 in three seasons at Virginia Tech and was the top hitter on Team USA’s collegiate national squad in 2021.

“Gavin is a player who has thrived against premium pitching throughout his college career,” said draft expert Dan Zielinski III of BaseballProspectJournal.com. “Cross’ bat-to-ball skills and baseball IQ immediately jump off the page. He is just a well-rounded baseball player. The left-handed hitter has arguably the best hit tool in this year’s draft class. He excels against premium velocity, capitalizes on mistake pitches, uses all parts of the field and hits for average and power.

“He is the complete package offensively. Defensively, Cross can probably handle center field long term, but scouts believe he fits better in right field. He has above-average arm strength and solid athleticism. MLB teams typically place a higher value on college performers.”

Will Cross be collecting hits for the Kansas City Royals?

Will he be crushing pitches for the Colorado Rockies?

Will he be mashing for the Minnesota Twins?

Will he be the new sensation for the New York Mets?

Will he be contributing for the Chicago Cubs?

We’ll find out tonight.

With all indications the Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks will go with high schoolers Jackson Holliday and Druw Junes with the top two selections, the following is a look at teams with picks 3-20 and how they might fare in the Gavin Cross sweepstakes:

3. TEXAS RANGERS

The Northeast Tennessee ties are strong in Texas.

Left-handed pitcher Brett Martin (Morristown East) was chosen by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft and has been a reliable reliever for the big-league club since 2019.

Outfielder Evan Carter (Elizabethton) was a second-round draftee of Texas in 2020 and is currently one of the franchise’s top prospects as he stars for the High-A Hickory Crawdads.

Elizabethton High School graduate and Milligan University coach Danny Clark is the minor league pitching coordinator for the organization.

Could they add another local to the fold?

It’s neat to imagine Gavin Cross and Evan Carter sharing the outfield and making things happen from the top of the batting order for the American League club.

“Personally speaking, I think Gavin Cross’ skillset will be a fit with any organization, as he is solid at basically everything on the field,” said Quenten Radford of NolanWritin.com. “Many evaluators believe he is destined to play in a corner outfield position; a position the Rangers have a surplus of currently, with many of the younger infielders having to learn to play outfield due to the massive signings of [Corey] Seager and [Marcus] Semien, and with guys like [Dustin] Harris, [Aaron] Zavala and [Evan] Carter in the minors as well. …. If the draft falls a certain way, there could be a chance the Rangers select the college bat in Cross, as they are looking to compete sooner, rather than later. Also, the Rangers have surprised people before in taking players before their projected ranking, as in 2020 they took the very little known Evan Carter many rounds before he was projected to get drafted and the return on investment is looking very well there. So, yes, there is certainly a chance, albeit a low one.”

4. PITTSBURGH PIRATES

The last local guy selected in the first round of the MLB Draft went to the Pirates as Will Craig (Science Hill) was chosen by Pittsburgh with the 22nd overall pick out of Wake Forest University in 2016.

Could they go with Cross six years later?

“I think Cross would be a good fit for the Pirates,” said Danny Demilio of Pittsburgh Baseball Now. “Ben Cherington has targeted college bats in the first round of his first two drafts as Pirates general manager and Cross is one of the top college hitters available this year. … Whoever does get Cross will be getting a player with solid tools across the board, especially so at the plate. He has the chance to be a really solid major league player.”

5. WASHINGTON NATIONALS

The legion of Virginia Tech fans living in Northern Virginia would certainly like to see Cross end up with the club in the nation’s capital.

Outfielder Juan Soto turned down the longest of long-term deals from the Nationals, so maybe Cross will emerge in the future plans?

“I think it’s a good fit because the Nats need to stockpile quality bats in their minor leagues,” said Josh Neighbors, host of the Locked On Nationals podcast. “They don’t have that many guys right now that you can pencil in for the future in their lineup and this guy absolutely demolished the [Atlantic Coast Conference] for three seasons. …It is always cool to see guys from around the area end up on certain teams. Obviously, Ryan Zimmerman being a Virginia guy added to his legacy.”

6. MIAMI MARLINS

Cross went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs the last time he was in Miami – Virginia Tech’s Atlantic Coast Conference triumph over the University of Miami Hurricanes on Feb. 28, 2021.

Could he become a South Beach slugger?

“I think Cross would be a good fit in the Marlins farm system,” said Hector Rodriguez, a writer for FishStripes.com. “His hit and power tools have improved this past season and had lots of success with Team USA’s Collegiate team. I think his chances of going to Miami aren’t great, because I think they are looking to add an infielder with their first-round selection.”

7. CHICAGO CUBS

The Windy City has employed locals in the pros plenty of times before as Justin Grimm (Virginia High) pitched in 263 games for the Cubs from 2013-2017 and was a member of the 2016 team that won the World Series. Jim Saul, also a VHS graduate, was Chicago’s bullpen coach in 1975 and 1976.

Daniel Norris (Science Hill) pitches for the Cubs currently.

Also, the team’s Double-A affiliate is in Kodak, Tennessee, and you know fans would come through the turnstiles in large numbers to see Cross play for the Tennessee Smokies.

Could Gavin Cross carve out his own niche in Chicago?

“Good bats in a system are always a plus. Although the Cubs have a number of outfielders in the pipeline that should be ready for MLB in two-three years, having guys that can hit is an advantage, especially with the addition of the designated hitter [in the National League],” said Ron Luce, a writer for Ontapsportsnet.com “In the Cubs case, Cross would be a good fit – lefty, positional versatility since he can play first as well – especially if a full-time move to first is in the cards. The Cubs have zero prospect depth at that position.”

8. MINNESOTA TWINS

Minnesota is a team Cross has been linked with frequently in MLB Draft predictions and the Twins taking him makes sense.

“Cross is an exciting player from a strong crop of college hitters in this draft,” said JD Cameron of TwinsDaily.com. “He matches a type that the Twins have drafted several times in recent years – college outfielder with strong exit velocity. Trevor Larnach, who they took from Oregon State, fits a similar mold as a hitter, although Cross is a superior defender. Cross is one of a few college hitters – Zach Neto [of Campbell], Jacob Berry [of LSU] – that the Twins have been linked with. Of course, that depends on the first seven picks. I think if one of the elite prep hitters fell to them, they would consider that.”

9. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

The Royals have taken a couple of left-handed pitchers from the area in the first round before – East Tennessee State University ace Atlee Hammaker in 1979 and John Battle High School graduate Jimmy Gobble in 1999 – so perhaps this time they’ll take a lefty-swinging outfielder from Bristol.

Kansas City is another team that Cross has been linked to often leading up to the MLB Draft.

“I think the Royals are pretty thin in the outfield in their farm system and Cross looks like a polished hitter with a mature approach that could rise quickly,” said Max Rieper of RoyalsReview.com “They could use a bat like his at the top of the lineup and I think his speed and gap power could play well in Kauffman Stadium. I actually see him a lot like Andrew Benintendi, who the Royals currently start in left field but is expected to be traded this summer. … If management is worried about their job security, they may look for a player that could help them quickly, which could lead them to Cross, who probably won’t need to spend a lot of time in the minors.”

10. COLORADO ROCKIES

It’s not that hard to envision Cross launching pitches into the thin air of the Mile High City at Coors Field and Colorado is where the experts at Baseball America had him landing in their final mock draft.

“First and foremost, Colorado will be selecting the best player on their board that’s available,” said Patrick Lyons, who covers the team for TheDNVR.com “Many teams operate this way, but for an organization like the Rockies, it’s more important for them to not miss on an opportunity than it is for addressing any needs.

“As for the player, Cross would certainly be a good fit. Despite the fact that Colorado has used their last two top 10 picks on high school outfielders (Zac Veen in 2020 and Benny Montgomery in 2021), you simply can’t have an overabundance of anything in the farm system. These things sort themselves out, as Farm Director Chris Forbes will say.”

11 & 14. NEW YORK METS

The Mets have two first-round selections this year after they were unable to agree to terms with Vanderbilt University pitcher Kumar Rocker, their top pick in 2021

If Cross is still on the board, there is a very good chance New York would choose him.

“I think mostly anyone is a good fit for Gavin, but in specifics the Mets would benefit greatly from him being in the organization,” said Thomas Henderson of AmazinAvenue.com. “He would easily slot in as their top outfield prospect — they really only have one notable one right now in Alex Ramirez, but he’s a ways away from the major league level — and Cross would probably be a fast mover through the system since he’s a pretty polished college bat.”

Former Tennessee High and Virginia Tech standout Gavin Cross is projected to be the first Top 10 pick from Southwest Virginia. Tim Hayes tells what makes Cross special.

12. DETROIT TIGERS

This is the latest in the draft Cross is projected to go it seems.

No. 12 is the selection the Houston Astros used to draft former Tazewell High School pitcher Billy Wagner of Ferrum College in the first round of 1993. That worked out well.

The Detroit Lions selected Virginia Tech tight end James Mitchell (Union) in the NFL Draft and it’s possible another local Hokie could wind up in the Motor City.

“I think Cross would be a great fit for the Tigers,” said Matthew Scheidel of MotorCityBengals.com. “They desperately need bats in their farm system, particularly outfielders, and he obviously fits that mold. His power potential from the left side is what makes him so intriguing.

“A lot has to go right for Cross to fall to Detroit at 12. For example, a team ahead of them would probably have to take the first pitcher off the board. Cross would be my personal favorite pick for the Tigers at 12. As I stated before, his power potential from the left side of the plate makes him a very desirable prospect. His ability to generate high exit velocities makes him particularly interesting for Detroit, since they don’t have a lot of guys in the minors that can do that consistently right now.”

13. LOS ANGELES ANGELS

There haven’t been many rumors connecting the L.A. Angels to Cross, even though it would be cool to see him in a couple of years batting in front of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in Anaheim.

The Angels drafted Virginia Tech pitcher Joe Saunders with the 12th overall pick in 2002, the highest a Hokies player has ever gone off the board in the event.

Cross likely won’t last that long.

15. SAN DIEGO PADRES

Cross attended the MLB Draft Combine in San Diego last month and enjoyed the trip to Petco Park. The dynamic Cross would be right at home with one of the most exciting teams in the majors.

His dad, Adam, played his final professional season in San Diego’s organization.

“I think Cross would be a fantastic fit for the Padres, as their second biggest need is an outfielder,” said Matt Kaimer one of the hosts of the Friar Talk podcast. “The Padres current roster and farm system lacks above-average bats from the left side and Cross fits that profile. In addition, his ability to play all three outfield spots is a huge plus.”

16. CLEVELAND GUARDIANS

There are three American League Central rivals picking before Cleveland – Minnesota, Kansas City and Detroit – so one of those will likely have grabbed Cross by the time the Guardians are on the clock.

[Cross] is an advanced hitter with a good eye at the plate and power. There’s decent speed and a strong arm capable of handling right field. It’s a corner profile with plenty of power. Cross should move quickly through the minors giving teams a quick return on their investment,” Willie Hood of GuardiansBaseballInsider.com wrote. “Right now, it doesn’t seem likely that he will make it to Cleveland’s selection at pick 16 but I believe they would be thrilled and surprised to make him part of the organization.”

17. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

There hasn’t been mention of any links between Cross and the Phillies, even though some of have said the leg kick on his swing reminds them a bit of Bryce Harper’s.

The first Tennessee High graduate ever selected in the MLB Draft was catcher Nick Graybeal, who went to the Phillies in the fourth round in 1967.

Philadelphia picked Abingdon High School catcher Trey McCall with the 16th overall pick in the 1985 MLB Draft.

18. CINCINNATI REDS

There are a lot of Reds fans in the area and they probably wouldn’t mind if Cross slid this far. They wouldn’t be the only ones happy if that became a reality.

“Reds [General Manager] Nick Krall would be doing backflips if Cross is there at No. 18,” said Drew Koch of BlogRedMachine.com “Gavin Cross would be a great fit for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds need an advanced outfield bat in the farm system and Cross more than fits that description. One-hundred percent chance that the Reds take Gavin Cross with the 18th pick if he falls that far. The Reds had Matt McLain fall into laps last year with the 17th overall pick and this would be seen in a very similar light.”

19. OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Local guys have played for the Athletics in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland. Perhaps a local will one day suit up for the A’s when they potentially make the move to Las Vegas, Portland or Nashville as has been rumored.

However, it’s unlikely Oakland has a shot at landing Cross this late in the 2022 draft.

“It’s hard to know who exactly the A’s will be targeting but they have been linked to a number of college outfielders and Cross is one of the best in this class,” said Melissa Lockard, who cover’s the A’s for TheAthletic.com. “His power potential and overall plate discipline would make him a good fit in the A’s system, as well as his ability to play all three outfield positions. It seems likely he will be gone by the time the A’s select at 19, however.”

20. ATLANTA BRAVES

Even though the chances of Cross still being on the board at No. 20 are virtually nil, it would be the sentimental pick.

There are thousands of Braves fans in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and Gavin’s dad, Adam, signed as an undrafted free agent with Atlanta in 1995.

“Gavin Cross is by my evaluation easily one of the top-10 players in the upcoming draft and beyond just being a fit for the Atlanta Braves he would be a fit for any team,” said Garrett Spain of BatteryPower.com. “For the Braves specifically, they lack a top-tier outfield talent in the system after the graduation of Michael Harris, and if a guy like Cross were to fall to them I think it would be foolish to not kick the tires on that. This is a player with elite bat speed and raw power who could be a force in the middle of a major league lineup regardless of whether a team feels confident to move him to center field or just keep him in a corner long term.

College bats tend to have higher predictability and thus teams are more confident taking them with high picks.”

thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

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Related to this story

Being a radio and television analyst for the Toronto Blue Jays keeps Kevin Barker plenty busy, but he still finds time to check in on the baseball program at Virginia Tech.

He can’t help but notice on those occasions when scanning information on his old school the numerous highlights and exploits of superstar slugger Gavin Cross.

“I follow Virginia Tech on Instagram,” Barker said in a recent telephone interview. “And he’s all over it.”

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