MLB Draft Profile: Kumar Rockerby Alex Kielar May 23, 2021 4 comments
The 2021 MLB Draft will begin on July 11, 2021. Let’s take a look at one of the top pitchers in the draft, Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker. The right-hander has gone neck-and-neck with his Commodore teammate Jack Leiter this season. They are basically interchangeable as 1A and 1B in this draft.
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Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Weight: 255 lbs.
2019: 12-5, 3.25 ERA, 114/21 K/BB in 99.2 IP
2020: 2-1, 1.80 ERA, 28/8 K/BB in 15.0 IP
2021: 11-2, 2.45 ERA, 129/27 K/BB in 88.0 IP
Kumar Rocker put himself on the map at North Oconee High School in Bogart, Georgia. As a junior in 2017, he pitched to a 1.63 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings. He later pitched in the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game and Perfect Game All-American Classic that summer. His performances had him projected as a first-round pick. Despite that, however, the son of former NFL defensive back Tracy Rocker decided to stick to his Vanderbilt commitment. Due to his signability concerns, Rocker didn’t get drafted until the 38th round by the Colorado Rockies.
Rocker was an immediate weekend starter for the Commodores and was completely filthy in the NCAA Tournament in his freshman year. He tossed a 19-strikeout no-hitter against Duke in the Super Regionals, then picked up two victories in the College World Series and earned Most Outstanding Player honors. Rocker had hitters in a proverbial “rocking chair” as he finished with 44 strikeouts and just five walks in the NCAA Tournament.
Rocker has a tremendous feel for his slider which plays very well with his mid-90s running fastball. His slider was his putaway pitch in his 19 strikeout no-hitter, as he got all 19 whiffs on the best slider in college baseball. The fastball sits 93-96 mph and has sometimes reached 99. He absolutely overpowers hitters and also features a vertically breaking curveball. Rocker puts a lot of power behind his slider and at its best, it drops straight down while appearing to be a straight fastball. Hitters have a really hard time picking it up it sits on the same plane as the fastball before dropping right off the table. Rocker could see his other three pitches changing up a bit, but his slider is the one he wants to stay the most consistent with, and knows he can keep it going the way he currently uses it.
Rocker doesn’t always stay consistently dominant and struggles with his command at times. On days where he doesn’t have his best stuff, he will need to learn to control his pitches better and add some finesse. His fourth pitch in his changeup isn’t used much, but it can get flat when he does throw it. The freshman year for Rocker was up and down before he finished as the most dominant pitcher in the country. That is where his ceiling lands but needs to find a happy medium between that and when he isn’t at the top of his game.
Pro Comparison: Carlos Rodón
Outside of having a similar build, Rocker has the same repertoire as Rodón and they both have a devasting slider with legitimate swing-and-miss. Coming out of college, Rodón’s least-developed pitch was also his changeup due to the dominance of his fastball and slider. Add that to the fact both guys have recently pitched no-hitters, and you’ve got a very solid comparison. The Chicago White Sox left-hander was previously drafted in the 16th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 before the White Sox took him third overall in 2014. Rodón never developed into an ace until this season after he made his major league debut in 2015.
Draft Projection: Round 1, Pick 3, Detroit Tigers
The Tigers could always use more bats, but they added infielder Spencer Torkelson last year after snagging outfielder Riley Green in 2019. Detroit also added catcher Dillon Dingler, outfielder Daniel Cabrera, shortstop Trei Cruz, and third basemen Gage Workman and Colt Keith in last year’s draft. The Tigers love highly-touted young arms and have a number of them currently in the system. Rocker would be a solid addition to a group of right-handers Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Alex Faedo, and southpaws Tarik Skubal and Joey Wentz. The potential to add offense in later rounds is certainly there if they add Rocker in the first round.