Friday, May 27, 2022

MLB Draft 2022: Kumar Rocker’s next move after not joining Mets involves pitching for an independent team

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Former Vanderbilt right-handed pitcher Kumar Rocker has signed with the Tri-City Valleycats of the Frontier League, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN. The Frontier League is an independent league (you sometimes hear leagues like this referred to as “Indy ball” and it has nothing to do with Indianapolis), meaning there is no affiliation with Major League Baseball. As such, Rocker will be eligible to be drafted, again. 

It’s a pretty interesting story. 

Rocker was one of the biggest names heading into the 2021 MLB draft. He threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter in the 2019 Super Regional for Vanderbilt as a freshman and ended up winning Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series as Vandy took its second national title. 

In three years for Vanderbilt, Rocker would go 28-10 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 321 strikeouts against 68 walks in 236 2/3 innings. Heading into last season, there was a shot he would be the first overall pick. He was, alongside fellow Vanderbilt pitcher Jack Leiter, possibly the biggest name in the draft. Down the stretch, however, his velocity started to wane and there were concerns about his health. 

This all added up to Rocker dropping to 10th in the draft, when he was selected by the Mets. Once the Mets got a look at his medicals (an MRI of his right elbow was reportedly the concern), negotiations ended up going nowhere. The Mets wanted Rocker to sign for well below the slot figure while Rocker and his agent, Scott Boras, weren’t having it. 

Boras released a statement at the time saying Rocker “is healthy according to independent medical review by multiple prominent baseball orthopedic surgeons.” Boras added that Rocker did not require medical attention and would “continue to pitch in the regular course as he prepares to begin his professional career.”

That leads us to Rocker signing with the Valleycats. 

The first round of the 2022 MLB draft is Sunday, July 17, as it is now part of All-Star week. Rocker will have between then and now to showcase his skills for MLB scouts. 

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