Draft prospect Kumar Rocker has signed with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the independent Frontier League, according to a club announcement. He’ll use the league as a showcase to demonstrate his health and current form in advance of July’s draft.
Rocker has been one of the more talented and well-known draft prospects in recent years. Regarded as a possible first-round talent out of high school, Rocker matriculated to Vanderbilt after not agreeing to terms with a major league team on draft day. The 6’5″ right-hander stepped right into the Commodores’ rotation and would spend three seasons there. He posted a 3.25 ERA over 99 2/3 innings as a freshman, capping off the season with an utterly dominant 19-strikeout no-hitter in an elimination game against Duke.
Vanderbilt would go on to defeat Michigan in that year’s College World Series. From 2020-21, Rocker teamed with Jack Leiter — who would eventually be selected second overall by the Rangers — at the top of the rotation. The 2020 college baseball season was shortened because of the pandemic, but Rocker returned with a 2.73 ERA and 179 strikeouts over 122 frames last year. Vanderbilt finished national runner-up, and Rocker headed into last summer’s draft as a possible top five selection.
The Mets wound up selecting him with the 10th overall pick, with reports suggesting they were prepared to offer an overslot $6MM signing bonus. New York took issue with something in his throwing elbow during a post-draft medical evaluation, however, and wound up pulling their offer entirely. The Mets received the 11th selection in the upcoming draft as compensation. Unsurprisingly, Rocker’s camp pushed back against the idea that he was a particular health risk, with advisor Scott Boras saying last summer the hurler “is healthy according to independent medical review by multiple prominent baseball orthopedic surgeons.”
Rocker elected not to return to Vanderbilt, preferring to prepare for the 2022 draft on his own. Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin suggested in February he may eventually pursue an opportunity in independent ball, and that’s the course of action he’s chosen. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (on Twitter) that Rocker will begin pitching in games for the ValleyCats around a month from now, giving him about four weeks of game action before draft day.
Baseball America placed Rocker 35th on its latest ranking of this summer’s top draft prospects. Obviously, much of his stock will depend on how concerned various team medical personnel are during their evaluations of his elbow. This is generally regarded as a weak year for college pitching, so the 22-year-old Rocker would be one of the top nearer-term arms in the class if his arsenal is intact and the medical evaluations check out.
What if the Mets drafted him again in a late round lol
I could be wrong, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that a team can’t draft the same player in consecutive years.
You only need approval from the player to be drafted by the same team twice. I doubt he’d let the Mets draft him again though
or with the 11th pick
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
A player has to give written consent to be drafted by a team that drafted hum previously and failed to sign him. After what happened last year I highly doubt he consents to being drafted by the Mets.
Have no real opinion on guy, just tend to follow players who go against the system and see how their careers pan out.
I know in this case it was he said, she said x-ray said…
Remember him being a highly touted prospect, wonder where he’ll go….Dombrowski….?
Phillies tend to go understlot in the 1st round
Phillies need to be all over Lesko if he drops over TJ surgery. Not only is he I’m the real deal but could form a great young pitching core with Abel, Painter
The presence of Rocker, if he’s throwing well, will cause someone to go WAY under slot with their high first rounder, so they can promise Rocker 1st round money in the 2nd round. That could be a major coup.
Why wouldn’t a team just draft him in the late first?
They will this year. Dodgers and SF licking their chops. He’s better than some pie in the sky H.S. kid, late in the first round.
I wouldn’t think he would go in the first round unless it is a comp pick. teams I would think would be unlikely to risk someone who failed a medical if you don’t have a secondary pick
Teams these days draft pitchers in the middle of the first round who are already going under the knife for Tommy John surgery. The Blue Jays did it last year, for example — then traded him for Matt Chapman and who knows when he’ll throw his first pitch.
I can’t imagine anything in Rocker’s medical that can be worse than already having a Tommy John scheduled… short of Dave Dravecky’s arm cancer.
He doesn’t have the leverage to demand an overslot bonus.
Sure he does. He can simply pick a team he wants and give everyone else a very high bonus demand. If they want him, they have to pay. Otherwise he goes to his preferred team at slot, who have made him a promise. Happens all the time.
That was true before compensatory picks for unsigned first round picks. Now, if say the Yankees are picking at #25 or so and there is no one that particularly floats their boat, they can draft him. Then they could offer him an underslot deal and if he doesn’t accept then they will get pick #26 next year where there might be a player they like better and Rocker goes back into the pool to be drafted a lot later the next year. And eventually Rocker goes to work at Matt Harrington’s gas station.
Rocker has no leverage.
So what happened with this guy not signing ?
The Mets wound up selecting him with the 10th overall pick, with reports suggesting they were prepared to offer an overslot $6MM singing bonus. New York took issue with something in his throwing elbow during a post-draft medical evaluation, however, and wound up pulling their offer entirely.
Secondly besides the post-draft medical evaluation his velocity that year at Vandy dropped off substantially toward the end of the year.
As a Mets fan I don’t blame them for pulling out of the deal.
As a human being I wish the kid luck.
Agreed. Plus he refused to allow an MRI to be done pre draft. That combined with the Mets physical….. they said no thanks
Sucks for Rocker. He and his agents missed out on millions! I guess not signing out of high school was the first fork in the road – I wonder if he’s regretting that decision now? He got pretty great seasoning and coaching in college but these delays have really hurt his earning power and perhaps a lengthy career.
Really wish he ended up on the Savannah Bananas. Primetime entertainment to sold-out audiences.
That’s a college league not professional
They added a “professional” team last season.
I remember the Angels getting raked over the Internet coals for not selecting Rocker. Not sure if anyone knew anything (apparently the Mets saw something), but this a very unusual path to take to get signed. Most players would have gone back to Vanderbuilt, so this one raises my eyebrows a bit…wish him the best though; he’s very talented.
They apparently have changed the rules to allow pre-draft medical evaluations to prevent this happening again.
If a player consents to a pre-draft medical evaluation, which Rocker did not last year, they are guaranteed a certain percentage of their slot a allotment. I don’t recall the percentage, but it seems things would not have been any different last year since he did not consent to the medical review.
You Can Put It In The Books
It would appear he may have avoided going back to Vanderbilt for what would seem to be injury concerns – to limit strain on whatever mysterious injury he has.
He was overused in college, as are many college pitchers, and the Mets probably saw that he was going to need major surgery sooner than later. Good on them for letting him walk and grabbing a pick this year instead.
At Vanderbilt he would have had to face tough lineups in the SEC, numerous all-americans and future high draft picks with alot of talent. In the Frontier league he will face a much less talented pool of players that are not (mlb affiliated) professional contract worthy. They can call it a showcase, but getting Frontier league players out is not exactly what scouts are looking for.
Isn’t that the case for him going back to Vandy where he’s faced the best college bats and succeeded? How serious are scouts going to look at devoting a top pick to someone striking out Nuke Laloosh wannabes scraping together AB in the Frontier League? Even worse, what if he has a mediocre showing at the Frontier League and/or not dominate?
I think they are primarily looking at his health and if his mechanics have changed.
I doubt a bunch of college kids, most of whom would never sniff professional baseball, are better than Frontier League competition, where every player is, by definition, a professional.
He probably didn’t want the extra load of classes and just wanted to focus on baseball. Maybe not the smartest decision as Vandy is a great school and good fall back plan if he has a degree where he can find work in. Also maybe less wear and tear on the arm not going back to Vandy
Dumb comment most of the hitters have played from A ball to triple A not college kids with metal bats who most won’t even be drafted
I can see his draft position depending a lot on how he pitches in the independent league. I can see teams being a bit gun shy given he did not participate in the league sanctioned arm program and instead had his own evaluations (a typical Bora$$ move). I did not see his evaluations so don’t know if the Mets were overly cautious or Rocker’s medical people were not as concerned as they should be. There are differences in medical opinions all the time. But that kerfuffle will negatively affect his draft status this year. Eyes have not been on him so far this year, but on all the other draft candidates. A good showing could rebuild his value and he might sneak into the mid-first round area. But a bad showing could very well knock him well back into the late second round, or lower. Still, his showing at Vandy will entice some team to take him. Any notion that he gets drafted in the 2nd round but gets first round money is off base. He already opted out of college so he has little leverage. He can’t threaten to go back to college and threatening to go back to Independent league ball waiting for next year will likely be met with, “so go then.” He is 22, time to start his pro career and delaying that for a year to play in independent ball will not build his value at all. He might get a little over slot if he is in the 2nd round, but won’t be that much. And if he does move into the first round he might have to take under slot.
Sorry for the ignorance, but is there a rule in place stopping him from just signing on with a team from the frontier league? Teams sign players from independent leagues all the time.
If he’s playing independent ball…. Wouldn’t he be ineligible for the draft? I’m super confused on how that actually works.
nah. lots of dudes did it in the early 2000’s. Scherzer is one of them. You also have Paxton, Hochevar, and Crow as others in that group.
No, I’m sure this was cleared. These independent leagues like Atlantic and Frontier have agreements with the MLB where they are often used to test rule changes, but the teams are not affiliated with any MLB clubs. I guess in some ways it’s like the NBA’s G-League Ignite. The players that are draft-eligible are playing professionally on minor league level contracts but are not affiliated with any of the major level rosters. Atlantic and Frontier often have players with MLB experience, so the talent could be considered at or slightly above the AA level.
Atlantic and Frontier League players mostly are on those teams because they are not good enough to get a job with an affiliated team. Those leagues are Single-A quality at best.
But With the loss of many minor league teams, The Frontier and Atlantic teams will start getting players that fall through the cracks of the MLB draft. So those teams in some ways may get better players than they used to get with the draft being much longer and MLB Teams stocking so many players.
I thought he and Harold were going to White Castle.
If he slid to Washington in the second(not sure where they pick), Rizzo would probably take him. He seems like the prototypical Rizzo pitcher.
John Rocker will also be signing with them soon, he’s well rested!!
John Rocker would make a good mascot for an independent league team that believes all publicity is good publicity.
Great arm. Not sure about focus and weight.
That is an award winning headline!
We all know where this is heading. He will have a meeting with Dr. John within a couple years.
Dumpster Divin Theo
Kumar’s a stoner
Future Red Sox !!!
He can go to Cuba, cross the border through Mexico … surely he will get a multimillion-dollar contract. That’s the way
Time to be cautious. I’d have more faith if he finished a season with Vandy. He had a 122 IPs with Vandy in 2021. If I saw his velocity hold up for 122 innings, I’d assume he is past at least his immediate arm issues. Four weeks of game action, imvho, is short enough that you can fake your health. Feel great and well-rested for two weeks, and then pitch in pain for maybe 2-3 starts. It doesn’t feel like the same thing to me.
The possible final words on this…
From #1 to 3 years and out.
Conceited family attitude surely didn’t help.