Few organizations have produced Major League players at the same rate as the Houston Astros over the last decade. Naturally, David Stearns turned to one of the Astros’ top talent evaluators when he arrived in Queens, bringing in Kris Gross to work alongside Tommy Tanous as the vice president of amateur scouting.
Gross is credited with drafting players such as Corey Lee, Hunter Brown, Jeremy Peña, Patrick Sandoval and Brandon Bielak. With the Astros stripped of first- and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021, Gross was able to find some mid-to-late-round gems. He had plenty of success in his 11 years with the Astros, so a move elsewhere wasn’t something he was eyeing.
But then he got a phone call from Stearns.
“Unexpectedly, I was called by David shortly before Thanksgiving,” Gross said at last month’s winter meetings in Nashville. “I had a week of interviews, built a good rapport with him over the phone. We did have some history going back to the early Houston days, but it went well. And shortly thereafter, I became a Met.”
Gross and Stearns worked together in Houston, where the Mets‘ president of baseball operations was an assistant general manager. After getting hired by Houston in 2012, Gross worked his way up through the Astros’ front office from a West Coast crosschecker to the club’s director of amateur scouting.
A former pitcher in the Chicago Cubs organization, Gross started his scouting career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He comes to Queens with a reputation as a strong leader who was lauded by Astros staffers for his communication skills and scouting eye. The communication and collaboration will be key as he works with Tanous, the Mets’ longtime VP of amateur scouting and international scouting.
The two will both report to Stearns, with Gross responsible for overseeing the draft process.
“Tommy is a well-revered scout throughout the industry. He’s been great so far,” Gross said. “We’ve talked about what’s gone on in the past with the Mets, what the future is going to look like, and he’s gonna have a big hand in our evaluation process.”
The two have their own philosophies and values when it comes to amateur talent and will work to bring those philosophies together. Tanous has long targeted elite athletes and high-character players. Gross believes in drafting the best player available, regardless of organizational deficiencies.
“Every draft is different, so the strengths of the draft will change,” Gross said. “I’ve been through jobs where we take bats high or maybe some when we’ve taken arms, but every year is going to change. Every year, you’re looking for the best talent on the board. You don’t draft for need, you’re looking for who can impact the organization three or four years from now, not exactly that spring.”
Stearns has a checkered draft history. His drafts in Milwaukee featured some hits, like fourth-round pick Corbin Burnes, but there were some high-round misses, like Corey Ray and Keston Hiura.
Gross already has some familiarity with two prospects at the top of the Mets system, having drafted outfielders Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford, who came to New York in Houston’s trade for Justin Verlander at the deadline in August. Gross’ background combines traditional scouting with predictive analytical models.
Between Gross and Tanous, the Mets now have two of baseball’s most well-respected amateur scouting executives heading the department, which should significantly aid the team as it works toward its goal of becoming a sustainable juggernaut. Projecting the future of teenagers is inexact and unpredictable, but the records of Gross and Tanous speak for themselves.
“There’s still a human element involved in baseball,” Gross said. “These are 18-year-old kids and 21-year-old kids, so there are a lot of other things you’ve got to weigh in and factor.”