The New York Mets are not immune to the 'shot in the dark' nature of the MLB draft. The team has had many first-round picks that have become franchise icons such as Darryl Strawberry in 1980 and Dwight Gooden in 1982. At the same time, the Mets have whiffed on quite a few first-rounders. While the Mets' scouting department deserves criticism for their lackluster draft performances, we can find failed draft picks by every team in baseball.
In the first draft of the Steve Cohen era in 2021, general manager Zack Scott drafted right-handed pitcher Kumar Rocker in the first round, 10th overall. At the time, this decision seemed like a steal given how well Rocker pitched for the collegiate champion Vanderbilt Commodores. He posted a 2.73 ERA in 122 innings pitched with 179 strikeouts in 2021, leading a rotation that featured 3rd overall pick Jack Leiter. However, an obvious question popped into all of our heads: "Why did Rocker fall to 10th overall?"
Zack Scott admits the Mets were primed to take Colson Montgomery or Sal Frelick.
Rocker fell to the Mets at 10th overall because of concern regarding an arm injury following Vanderbilt's championship round. Though Cohen and Scott offered a $4 million signing bonus, Scott Boras turned down the money and Rocker went unsigned. In a normal draft, this decision would not be franchise-altering as the team gained an additional first-round pick in 2022. However, the players selected right after Rocker have become star prospects on both Baseball America's and MLB Pipeline's top-100 rankings. With that being said, fans have been left wondering, "Who else could the Mets have taken?"
Scott revealed the Mets' plans if Rocker had never fallen to them at 10th overall. The scouting department loved the skillset of Indiana high-school shortstop Colson Montgomery, who has drawn comparisons to Texas Rangers all-star Corey Seager. He has the power to hit 20 or more home runs and great plate discipline. Montgomery's intelligence as an athlete leaves scouts believing he can stick at shortstop long-term despite his average range.
The other prospect Scott loved was Boston College outfielder Sal Frelick. His offensive ceiling can be best compared to Jeff McNeil: a high batting average and a low strikeout player that can hit 40 doubles while stealing 20-25 bases a season. Frelick has played all three outfield positions with adequate arm strength and great range. Ironically, David Stearns loved Frelick enough to take him at 15th overall with the Milwaukee Brewers.
In summary, the Mets could have either had a future superstar shortstop in Montgomery or a great pairing in the outfield to Drew Gilbert and Brandon Nimmo with Frelick. This admission by Scott shows the lack of due diligence the Mets' front office had in selecting a player who had arm issues out of college. Luckily, they did manage to take Jett Williams in the first round the following year. Even if Williams becomes a star, fans can still wonder "What if Montgomery was a Met in 2024?"