Kumar Rocker

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Kumar Rocker

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Kumar Rocker was on the radar as an amateur player for years before turning pro. Out of high school, he was drafted in the 38th round of the 2018 amateur draft by the Colorado Rockies, although on pure talent, as his being a member of the USA junior national team attests, he would have gone much higher, but he had a strong commitment to Vanderbilt University. Once at Vandy, he was a superstar from the get-go, being named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player as a freshman who led the team to a win in the 2019 College World Series; he was also the Baseball America Freshman of the Year and threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter against Duke University at the 2019 CWS Super Regionals. His sophomore season in 2020 was cut short by the Coronavirus pandemic, but he was excellent the few times he got to pitch, and heading into 2021 he was considered the top college player in the country, although his teammate, Jack Leiter gave him a run for his money. He again led Vanderbilt to the finals of the 2021 College World Series, starting the decisive game against Mississippi State University, although he was outpitched in that game by Will Bednar and the Commodores were runner-ups. He was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award that season.

There was still talk of his going first overall in the 2021 amateur draft, and his teammate Leiter was selected with the #2 pick. He had to wait a while longer, as many of the teams that followed were looking towards more affordable high school talent, while it was assumed that it would take a very generous offer to sign him. He thus fell to the 10th slot, where he was selected by the New York Mets, who were elated to see him fall into their lap and had no concerns about needing to spend a lot to land him. As Mets scouting director Mark Tramuta explained: "Don't walk past the obvious. For us, this was an obvious pick. This is an extremely talented young man that we just couldn’t pass." However, the two sides were unable to come to an agreement, as a physical exam raised concerns about the health of his shoulder and elbow. He had chosen not to participate in a pre-draft program in which eligible players make the results of their physical exams public to drafting teams, allowing them to make more informed decisions. The Mets would have been obliged to offer him a contract worth at least 40% of his slot's bonus value, which they were not prepared to do, and decided to allow him to walk away. Because Rocker had not taken part in the pre-draft program, the Mets were allowed to do this and still obtain a compensatory pick (the 11th overall) in the 2022 amateur draft. The situation was similar to that of Brady Aiken, who had been drafted first overall by the Houston Astros in 2014, but who did not receive an offer due to health concerns. Rocker was the only player in the first round of the 2021 draft not to sign with the team that drafted him. As a college junior, Rocker still had one year of eligibility remaining at Vanderbilt, but sources stated that his plan was to play in a professional league outside of Organized Baseball in view of the next draft. His agent, Scott Boras, also stated that the pitcher "is healthy according to independent medical review by multiple prominent baseball orthopedic surgeons." He added: "Kumar requires no medical attention and will continue to pitch in the regular course as he prepares to begin his professional career." It was confirmed a few months later that he did indeed undergo a surgical procedure that fall, but Boras said that it was not baseball-related.

As spring 2022 rolled around, he was not playing anywhere but still hoping to be a top pick in the 2022 amateur draft; he was the ultimate wild card in that draft, as no one was quite sure which team would take a chance on his fulfilling the greatness that appeared to be in his future as recently as one year earlier. In mid-May, he announced that he would play for the Tri-City ValleyCats, now in the independent Frontier League, with the aim of making a few appearances before the draft and convincing teams that he was still worth a high pick. In his first outing against the Aigles de Trois-Rivières on June 4th, he did not disappoint, pitching consistently in the 90's and hitting a maximum of 99 mph, striking out 6 in 4 innings. In all, he made 5 starts, going 1-0, 1.35 with 32 strikeouts in 20 innings while allowing just 11 hits and 4 walks. His only win came in his final start against the wretched Empire State Greys, a road team who were 2-39 at the time, but really the brief tryout could not have gone any better for his sake. Rocker ended up being drafted #3 overall in the 2022 draft by the Texas Rangers, much higher than anyone anticipated. He was the fifth player to be a top-ten selection in two different drafts, the most recent having been Mark Appel. It only took a few hours for Rocker to come to terms with the Rangers, agreeing to a bonus of $5.2 million. Ironically, that once again made him a teammate of Leiter, his rival at Vanderbilt.

He is built like a college football lineman, which is not surprising given his father Tracy Rocker was one, and in fact played in the NFL for four seasons before turning to coaching. He did play football in high school, but gave it up when he went to college.

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Rocker shows scouts 'big-time' velo in indy ball debut", mlb.com, June 5, 2022. [1]
  • Associated Press: "Hard-throwing Kumar Rocker ready for his second MLB draft", Yahoo! News, July 16, 2022. [2]
  • Anthony DiComo: "Mets take Vandy fireballer Rocker at No. 10", mlb.com, July 11, 2021. [3]
  • Anthony DiComo: "Mets opt not to sign No. 10 pick Rocker: Club did not extend offer after reviewing right-hander's medicals", mlb.com, August 1, 2021. [4]
  • Mac Engel (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): "Scott Boras does his magic on the Rangers, who take the biggest risk in the MLB Draft", Yahoo! News, July 18, 2022. [5]
  • Kenndi Landry: "Rangers pick fireballer Rocker at No. 3 overall", mlb.com',, July 18, 2022. [6]

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