The New York Mets will not be signing their 2021 first round draft pick, Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker. It’s a tough situation for both sides, but the Mets saw too much of an injury concern after examining Rocker to make a $6 million investment in him. That, sadly, might have been the most savvy decision.
Kumar Rocker has been on the map since his first season at Vanderbilt. His imposing presence, wipeout slider, and explosive fastball made him a first-round talent, and his performance on the field reflected as much. He finished his Commodore career with a 28-10 record and 2.89 ERA, striking out 12.2 batters per nine innings.
His mechanics, however, are where the concerns start.
Rocker doesn’t have the cleanest delivery. When a pitcher’s front foot lands, the best place for his arm to be is up and in a 90-degree angle, or close to it. This minimizes the amount of torque he’s putting on his joints as he starts to move forward with his release. Rocker’s arm is late getting to this angle, which forces it to rush and puts an added level of stress on his arm. This issue is compounded by the fact that he’s a hard-throwing starting pitcher; it’s easier for finesse guys and/or relievers to get away with less-than-perfect mechanics, as they generally don’t put as much strain on their bodies.
For what it’s worth, Rocker wasn’t quite as dominant near the end of Vanderbilt’s season. The most noticeable difference was his loss of velocity, as it dipped into the low 90s. The Mets saw the early onset of serious injuries when they looked inside his arm, apparently. That was enough for them to pass on the 10th overall pick.
Why it Works for the Mets
The Mets will get next year’s 11th overall pick as compensation for not signing Rocker, along with their own 2022 pick, wherever that lands. Time will tell if this works out for them, but on the surface, it seems they made the right call. $6 million is a lot to invest in a player you feel might have an injury-addled career. The Astros made a similar decision in 2014 when they did not sign the #1 overall pick in Brady Aiken due to injury concerns. That turned into the #2 pick in the 2015 draft, which became franchise cornerstone Alex Bregman. Stuff like this happens, for better or worse.
Kumar Rocker has said he isn’t going back to college, which kind of leaves him in limbo until next year’s draft. He can just work out on his own in preparation for another team to pick him in 2022, play Indy Ball, or perhaps play overseas somewhere. We’ll see where his agent, Scott Boras, leads him. Perhaps he gets even better and goes higher than 10th next year, then shoves it up the Mets’ asses every time he throws against them in his 17-year Hall of Fame career. But New York brass just wasn’t comfortable with that iffy shoulder/elbow of his.
Baseball can be a tough business sometimes.
Join the discussion