How Kumar Rocker went from top 10 in 2021 to one of the biggest mysteries in the 2022 MLB Draft

It’s almost here. Yes, the Major League Baseball draft (scheduled to begin Sunday, July 17), but also the conclusion of Kumar Rocker’s year-long odyssey that has seen him go from the most overexposed prospect in the class to a relative mystery.

Rocker has been on the national radar since 2019 when he threw 19 hits at bat in NCAA super regionals as a staffer at Vanderbilt. Last summer, he was drafted by the New York Mets with the 10th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. A post-draft physical, however, revealed something the Mets didn’t want to see and stymied negotiations between the two parties. The Mets were rewarded with the 11th pick in this summer’s draft while Rocker retained his draft eligibility for another season, ensuring he will be picked for the third time. (He was a late round selection by the Colorado Rockies out of high school but did not sign.)

Rocker had a few options ahead of him, including returning to Vanderbilt for another season or turning pro by joining an independent or international league team. (If you’re wondering how a professional can stay draft-eligible… well, welcome to the MLB Monopoly.) He chose to disappear from public life for the first half of the year, running a top scouting official. with a team to tell CBS Sports that he was the toughest player to get new information about this draft cycle.

Over the weekend, ESPN reported that Rocker underwent shoulder surgery last September, describing it as a “minor wear” on his right arm. He has since resurfaced on a Proof of Life tour as a member of the Tri-City Valley Cats, a team unaffiliated with the Frontier League. He added four starts to his resume as the Valley Cat, amassing a 1.35 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 20 innings against substandard competition. The reality is that Rocker’s performance in the Frontier League means less than the fact that he offers teams some peace of mind about his current well-being. In that regard, his stint with the Valley Cats was a success: A scout at one of his starts clocked his fastball up to 99 mph and rated his slider a 70 on the 20- 80, or a plus- plus an offer that is borderline elite. If Rocker was compromised, it stands to reason that the quality of his work would show it as much.

Even so, there is and will remain a chasm between the public perception of Rocker — that he is, essentially, a true ace in the making — and the industry’s more muted reading of him. The difference comes down to the reservations scouts and analysts have about the depth of his arsenal (he lacks a good change) and how his mechanics will affect his command and long-term durability. (That last talking point shouldn’t fade away anytime soon in light of the Mets’ valuation last summer)

We at CBS Sports have nevertheless ranked Rocker as the 25th best prospect in this class, noting that it’s silly to get too obsessed with what’s going on. strength happen with his arm when almost every other top pitcher in this class has had elbow or shoulder issues. Additionally, the risk of injury is present with any pitcher; it is the warp and weft of things. We therefore expect a team to roll the dice before the end of the first round, although in all likelihood outside the top 10.

After that? Who knows what will become of Rocker. We know he will be a tough act for any college player when it comes to the amount and length of attention he was able to garner before throwing a minor league pitch. It’s been a heck of a ride over the past three years, but if we had to guess, Rocker is probably excited to be approaching his destination, wherever that ends up being.

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