Another pitcher out of Vanderbilt was selected in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft. The New York Mets took a chance with Kumar Rocker, the 10th overall selection, as the farm hasn’t produced many great arms for them since Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom.
Kumar Rocker Mets Fallout
The reasons are the Mets’ previous owners either dealt the prospects in numerous trades, or the curse with injuries continues as young pitchers like David Peterson and prospect Thomas Szapucki have to face a huge setback. The right-handed starter, Kumar Rocker, is 6’5 and 245 lbs. Before the year started, he was considered to be a generational type talent and was slated to go first overall or just behind Jack Leiter at #2.
Rocker did struggle towards the end of the season, but he has an electric fastball, a good slider, a good curveball, and a good change-up. The Mets front office and scouts were definitely surprised to see him at the tenth spot.
However, some things are just too good to be true as the Mets had until 5 pm EST Sunday to get a deal done and couldn’t. So what were the issues between the Mets, Rocker, and his agent Scott Boras? There were some medical concerns, and Boras refuted the claims that signing Rocker would have been difficult and went on to say that his client is healthy.
There are reports stating that the Mets did not offer Rocker’s camp any deal and that going their separate ways was the plan. Rocker will also not be returning to Vanderbilt and will work on strengthening and conditioning for next year’s Draft.
According to Jon Heyman:
“While it’s Mets’ choice if they don’t sign Rocker, it’s a hit not to sign your 1st pick. Beyond losing one of the most celebrated college pitchers in years, they’ll lose $1.3M in draft $, more valuable since players have limited bargaining position. They’d get pick 11 in ‘22 tho.”
Why Rocker is Not Returning to School
Rocker had two more years of eligibility at Vanderbilt to possibly go higher in next year’s draft but will not go back. Not too sure why he didn’t go back as some scouts stated that SEC baseball talent is better than independent ball and equivalent to Single-A ball to some extent.
This takes us to the Luke Hochevar situation where the pitcher was selected with the 40th pick in the 2005 Draft. He did not sign with any team at the independent or international level to work out. In the 2006 Draft, he was taken first overall by the Kansas City Royals.
However, Hochevar also had issues with his arm due and ended up having Tommy John surgery and sat out for the 2014 season. He had a career ERA of 4.98 and last pitched in 2016. If his arm is not an issue, then that is a great sign with the right-hander.
The option that would have been more lucrative for Rocker would have been to play overseas in Japan. It is not easy to commit to, but one of Boras’ clients did it before. The eighth overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Carter Stewart did not sign with the Atlanta Braves and agreed to a six-year, $7 million with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
However, it worked out well for the Braves. With the ninth pick of the 2019 Draft, the Braves selected Shea Langeliers. Langerliers is ranked 55th in the MLB.com top 100 prospects and is third in the Braves system.
What would you do if you had the chance to be in Rocker’s shoes? Would you play independent baseball, international baseball, or no baseball at all?