- Full name Gabriel Jordan Gross
- Born 10/21/1979 in Baltimore, MD
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 220 / Bats: L / Throws: R
- School Auburn
- Debut 08/07/2004
Drafted in the 1st round (15th overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2001 (signed for $1,865,000).
View Draft ReportGross made a big splash as a freshman--in two sports. He started six games at quarterback and hit safely in his first 19 games as an outfielder. He gave up football after his first season at Auburn and has blossomed into one of the best all-around college players in the nation. He took a step back in scouts' eyes last summer when he was cut from Team USA and opted not to play in the Cape Cod League, but he has won them back over. He's reminiscent of former Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, though Gross has more power and is a better athlete. A career .376 hitter in college, he projects to hit 30 homers annually in the majors. He also has a strong arm and makeup. The only college outfielder who projects to be drafted ahead of him is Kent State's John VanBenschoten. Gross should go anywhere from 15th to 25th overall.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Gross was a two-sport star at Auburn, where he started at quarterback as a true freshman. His father Lee was an offensive lineman in the NFL during the 1970s. Gross hurt his right elbow in mid-April last year, and while he didn't require surgery he was limited to DH duties for six weeks. He's a big, physical athlete with solid tools across the board and employs an advanced approach at the plate, uncommon in most former two-sport athletes. He has made strides driving the ball to the opposite field with his long, lofting swing. He has an average arm and gets down the line in 4.4 seconds, slightly below-average from the left side. Gross has yet to show the above-average power the Jays projected when they drafted him 15th overall in 2001, though the new scouting regime still believes it's only a matter of time. He needs to be more aggressive, as he'll get passive after working counts into his favor. Gross also has a bad habit of opening up his front side too quickly on his swing, costing him bat speed and allowing lefthanders to exploit him on the inner half. He managed just one hit in 11 at-bats against southpaws in the majors after hitting .233 with one homer against them in Triple-A. He was overmatched at times with Toronto, but his tools are hard to ignore. The Jays will give him the chance to win the left-field job in spring training.
Auburn's starting quarterback as a freshman in 1998, Gross has made the decision to leave football behind look smart. He grinded out a productive 2003 season, which ended with him starting in right field for the ill-fated U.S. Olympic qualifying team. Gross is a good athlete with solid average or above-average tools across the board. He has at least average power, runs well for his size and his arm fits well in right field. He commands the strike zone well and is learning to be aggressive in hitter's counts. Gross struggled in 2002 because he couldn't get his hands in good position for his swing, but he seems to have made that adjustment. His football background means he has less experience than a typical college draftee, so his home run production hasn't approached his ceiling yet. He struggles with southpaws (.248 with four homers in 129 at-bats last year). Gross could resemble Paul O'Neill, a corner outfielder who hits for a good average and 15-20 homers, or he could become a 30-homer threat. He should start 2004 back in Triple-A.
Gross' father Lee was an all-conference center at Auburn, and Gabe briefly followed in his dad's football footsteps, earning six starts as a freshman quarterback. His success at baseball, though, convinced him to give up the gridiron for his last two seasons with the Tigers. His first full year as a pro, 2002, brought his first failure on the diamond. Gross still has the plus tools to be a prototype right fielder. He has lefthanded power, a strong throwing arm and athleticism, and he's an above-average defender. He recovered from a slow start, hitting .282-8-35 in the last three months. Gross had a rough start in 2002, hitting .141 in April. He had trouble getting his hands started and through the zone, blocking off his own swing and leaving him unable to catch up to good fastballs. Shannon Stewart and Vernon Wells worked through similar woes during their minor league careers. Gross has the work ethic and ability to work though his swing problem and did so in the second half, as well as in the Arizona Fall League. He should spend his second full season repeating and conquering Double-A.
Gross began his college career following his father's footsteps as an Auburn football player. After passing for 1,222 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman, Gross left quarterbacking behind to focus on baseball. A first-team All-American as a sophomore, his numbers dived in a depleted Auburn lineup in 2001. While Gross slumped as a junior, the Blue Jays believed in him and he looked strong during the summer and in the Arizona Fall League. A natural hitter, he has good balance, an easy stroke and good power in a package that reminds the organization of Shawn Green. Gross' athleticism and plus arm make him a prototypical right fielder. Gross showed good patience in his pro debut but chased too many pitches off the plate in college. His speed is just OK and he needs to improve his baserunning skills. Gross is on the fast track to join a crowded Blue Jays outfield. He played some first and third base in college, which could help him move faster if the Blue Jays are forced to move Carlos Delgado's large contract. He'll start 2002 in Double-A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Gross has displayed the plate discipline that drives prospects through the Blue Jays system, and there's no reason to expect that he won't be able to hit for a solid average in the majors. But if he's to become an everyday right fielder, he must learn to drive the ball better. "It's a pleasant surprise how he handles himself at the plate," Malave said. "He's not the power hitter everyone thinks he is. He's more of a gap-to-gap guy with occasional power." Gross worked to get rid of his aluminum-bat swing, one that was quick to the ball and covered the plate but didn't pack much punch. He relied on the metal to do that in college, and now is learning to generate that juice himself with a trigger mechanism and using his lower half more. Gross shows the tools to become a frontline defensive right fielder. He has the arm strength and speed, and just needs more practice taking the correct routes to balls, especially when giving ground.
Gross started six games at quarterback for Auburn as a freshman before focusing on baseball as a sophomore. On the heels of an All-America season, Gross' production slid as a junior, but not enough to prevent the Blue Jays from making him the first outfielder drafted (15th overall) this June. Toronto is intrigued with the football mentality that Gross brings to the diamond, plus he can flat-out rake and has drawn comparisons to Mike Greenwell. He quickly made adjustments to FSL pitchers, who didn't give in to him and often pitched him backwards. Pevey said Gross has light-tower power, and he homered twice in his Double-A debut after a late-season promotion. He also has above-average arm strength, though he's trying to improve his overall defensive play.