The New York Mets did their best to distract from a tough loss heading into the all-star break by drafting coveted Vanderbilt ace, Kumar Rocker. With the 10th overall pick, the Mets took the fiery right-hander in what was a shocking draft slip. As the new regime looks to continue to rebuild the recently thinned-out farm system, Rocker bolsters their minor league system in a big way.
The 6’5″ right-hander hails from Georgia where he was the 2017-2018 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year. The son of Tracy Rocker, a College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Kumar was highly touted out of high school and was drafted in the 38th round of the 2018 by the Colorado Rockies, but chose to go to Vanderbilt University instead. As a freshman, Rocker made his presence to the college baseball world-known almost immediately.
Kumar’s stuff speaks for itself
Rocker, who earlier in the NCAA season was projected to go first overall, took social media by storm with his devastating stuff. A frequent on Twitter timelines across the country, the Commodore ace showcased his power fastball and wipeout slider to college hitters on a nightly basis.
The fastball Kumar features sits in the mid 90s while touching up to 99 MPH. Scouts graded his fastball 65/80 and it proved to be incredibly effective in setting up hitters to throw his “White Castle” slider. Scouts have been weary of whether or not Rocker’s fastball will miss bats at the Major League level, however, the raw stuff indicates that it’ll be an effective pitch at the next levels.
The fastball Rocker throws helps to set the table for his 70-grade slider which has been featured regularly on highlight reels. The arm speed that Rocker has on his fastball helps to make his slider have incredibly movement as well as deception that produces swings and misses by the bunch. In fact, when Rocker threw his historic no-hitter against the Duke Blue Devils, he struck out all 19 batters with his slider. Big league hitters have their work cut out for them going up against Rocker’s best pitch.
In addition to the fastball and slider, Kumar has a curveball that is thrown less often, but is plus pitched nevertheless.
So what’s the catch? Control. Of the 80 grade tool that scouts use to evaluate a player’s ability in multiple areas, Rocker’s control was graded that lowest; a 50/80. His changeup was also graded a 50, but it’s a pitch that he’s thrown less and less often as he’s developed in college.
This isn’t anything new as there have been multiple prospects who feature electric stuff but lack the control to succeed at the big league level. However, given the Mets’ ability to develop pitchers in their farm system, Mets fans can buy into the hype around Rocker’s stuff.
Rocker’s resume also has something to say
If you’re unfamiliar with Vanderbilt baseball, think Alabama Football, Duke basketball and…Nebraska-Lincoln volleyball? Okay, maybe the last one was a reach, but you get the idea. An illustrious program known for pumping out big league talent, including 71 pitchers since 2003, Rocker put together an impressive resume in his three years in Tennessee.
Over 39 starts, Kumar compiled 236.2 innings pitched and put together a spectacular 2.89 ERA. What’s even more impressive is that in those 236 innings, Rocker recorded a whopping 321 strikeouts which is good for a 12.2 K/9 ratio. While averaging just about one base runner per inning, Rocker also pitched in big time situations.
Most recently, with Vanderbilt facing elimination and needing a win in the NCAA College World Series, Kumar delivered an 11 strikeout performance to stave off an early exit.
Ready to Rock in Flushing
After being drafted, Eduardo Perez made a bold statement that Kumar Rocker could find himself pitching for the Mets this year. That’s a bit of a reach, but the sentiment is there that suggests Kumar has the makeup to handle the pressure of New York.
If you’ve watched any of the highlights up until this point, you’ll notice that Rocker carries an aura on the mound that’s reminiscent of Marcus Stroman. In fact, Stroman gave a nod (one of many) to the young hurler soon after the Mets drafted him:
In fact, Kumar shared with Rob Friedman of Pitching Ninja the influence that Stroman’s interviews had on him. With the attention garnered around the country from his highlights (think Zion Williamson in high school), including a shoutout from NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, it appears that the big stage of New York won’t throw Rocker off his game.
Much like Stroman, Rocker has been known for his composed demeanor on the mound, but he’s also a fierce competitor who shows his fire when needed, especially in big moments. Exhibit A:
The Mets have done a fantastic job drafting in recent years and it looks like this year is no exception and while the caliber of previous players taken have proved to be on par, none have possessed the potential star-power like Rocker.
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Gear up, Mets fans, the future is bright.