The Mets Were Right About Kumar Rocker
Kumar Rocker won't be pitching for a long time. The Texas Rangers righty has a torn elbow ligament and will need to undergo Tommy John surgery. The 2022 first-round pick will miss the entire season and likely most of 2024. This development vindicates the New York Mets' stance from 2021.
The Mets originally selected Rocker with the 10th pick of the 2021 MLB Draft. He was coming off a dominant career at Vanderbilt, and in his final season he went 14-4 with a 2.73 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP and 179 strikeouts in 122 innings. He was absolutely electric, and his career included a 19-strikeout no-hitter during his freshman year.
Rocker is a pure power pitcher at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. He possesses a wicked mid-80s slider and pairs it with a mid-90s fastball that could hit 99. He also features a low-80s curveball and an average changeup, with both pitches showing long-term promise. The Mets were thrilled to get him at No. 10 and verbally agreed to a $6 million signing bonus. That's when things fell apart.
When the Mets reviewed Rocker's medical information they were not satisfied, and believed he had an elbow issue. Rocker hadn't participated in a program that would have made his information available before the draft. His agent, Scott Boras, denied there was anything wrong with his client. The Mets rescinded their contract offer and opted not to offer Rocker anything, instead taking the 11th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft as compensation.
Rocker opted not to return to Vanderbilt and instead pitched for the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Frontier League. He pitched 20 innings in the lead up to the 2022 MLB Draft and posted a 1.35 ERA and 32 strikeouts against four walks. Again, he looked dominant.
The Texas Rangers took Rocker with the third overall pick in the 2020 draft and inked him to a $5.2 million signing bonus. In the Rangers' system he was reunited with former Vanderbilt teammate and fellow starter Jack Leiter. Rocker pitched his six Arizona Fall League games after being drafted. He went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 14 innings.
After a spring training, Rocker was assigned to the High-A Hickory Crawdads to start the 2023 season. He made six starters and went 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and 42 strikeouts against seven walks in 28 innings. The 23-year-old had impressed. Unfortunately the bad news came on Tuesday that he wouldn't be pitching for a long time.
The Mets saw Rocker's medicals and decided he wasn't worth the risk. They were ripped by many experts for rescinding their offer. In the end, they were right to do so, and deserve credit for protecting their organization.