This wasn’t the start to Kumar Rocker’s professional career we envisioned. When it comes to debating the greatest athletes in Vanderbilt history, Rocker is on the short list, with a legitimate argument to be at the top.
Heading into the 2021 season, the much-hyped pitching duo of Jack Leiter with Rocker were anticipated to be top five MLB draft picks. Rocker seemed to do his part, leading the nation with 14 wins and tying with Leiter for the national lead in strikeouts with 179. He was a unanimous All-American. And yet while Leiter was picked 2nd overall by the Rangers as expected, Rocker slipped 10th when he was finally taken by the Mets.
It seemed New York had gotten a steal, but then we began hearing rumblings about concerns over Rocker’s arm. We thought it might be posturing. Signing was still a foregone conclusion, right?
Evidently not. Rocker did not sign by Sunday’s 5:00 EST deadline. The Mets couldn’t get past concerns from their own physical examinations of his arm.
“This is clearly not the outcome we had hoped for and wish Kumar nothing but success moving forward,” said acting Mets GM Zack Scott in a statement per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComa.
Rocker’s agent, Scott Boras, took issue with the Mets’ assessment of Rocker’s arm, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan:
“Kumar Rocker is healthy according to independent medical review by multiple prominent baseball orthopedic surgeons. Immediately upon conclusion of his collegiate season, he had an MRI on both his shoulder and his elbow. When compared with his 2018 MRIs, the medical experts found no significant change. Kumar requires no medical attention and will continue to pitch in the regular course as he prepares to begin his professional career.”
Since the Mets were unable to sign their first-round pick, they will receive the 11th pick in the 2022 draft as compensation.
But what does this mean for Rocker? Don’t get too excited Commodore fans, Passan has reported he will still forgo the two years of eligibility he has remaining at Vanderbilt. He will not be able to sign with another MLB team until after the 2022 draft.
Rocker could shut it down for a year and rehab whatever alleged injury he has. He could also play in a non-MLB affiliated independent baseball league. This option would let him be draft eligible for 2022, unlike if he played overseas. International signing rules would make him ineligible for the next MLB draft, and would significantly limit the bonus money he could earn in the MLB until he has played in an international professional league for six years (he would be 27 at that point).
It’s truly unfortunate. Rocker deserves much better than this. The Mets organization is a joke, and I can confidently predict they will rue the day they let Kumar Rocker get away…