With one simple signing, Kumar Rocker is back on the board. Well, he’s always been on the board, now he’s just a little more present in everybody’s consciousness.
By signing with the Tri-City Valleycats of the Frontier League, Rocker is probably going to be the most watched player the next four-to-six weeks as he tries to work his way back into the first round and towards the top of the round.
Many were beginning to wonder whether Rocker was going to pitch at all or if he was just going to wait for the draft in quiet silence. His camp was pretty quiet until today.
After last year‘s signing debacle where the Mets withdrew their offer over his medicals, Rocker has been pretty much a marked man. It’s almost as if he was blackballed in most mock drafts as there was so much uncertainty concerning whether he needed to have surgery, if he had it, or if he was going to pitch.
Some of that has gone away with yesterday’s signing but the rest of it will go away once people begin to see him pitch and get the pitch data. While it’s going to be interesting to see the velocity readings, the horizontal and vertical movement of his pitches is going to be just as important.
Rocker has always been a stud and, if he’s healthy, he could easily be a top 10 pick. If he shows that he can go deep into each start and throw strikes and show no impairment, he’s going to rocket up most boards, pun intended.
Strangely enough, MLB Pipeline had the exact same thing to say about Rocker before last year‘s draft as this year’s draft.
“Rocker’s velocity fluctuated during the 2021 season, with his fastball averaging 93 mph, sitting in the low 90s at times and touching 99 at others. His heater features some run and sink but also flattens out on occasion. All 19 of his strikeouts against Duke came on his slider, a mid-80s wipeout pitch with power and depth when at its best, and he also employs a low-80s curveball with more vertical break. Rocker also has a sinking mid-80s changeup that shows signs of becoming an average offering, though it gets too firm at times and he doesn’t use it much.”
Rocker’s draft stock is going to fluctuate greatly over the next six weeks. Some of that will be unfair depending upon how he does. He really hasn’t pitched in over a year.
If he’s healthy, this guy is going to slide right into action right away. Unlike other pitchers who have already thrown a full season or are nearing the end of the season, he’s just beginning his and that may benefit him a little bit more.
I love that he’s a big game pitcher and I love his competitiveness on the mound. I have my doubts about the inner workings of his arm and everybody else probably does. We can thank the Mets for that. If he’s fully healthy and the MRIs and X-rays show a structurally sound arm and shoulder, then the draft is going to get a little crazier, especially if he pitches well the next six weeks.
As for the Cubs, there’s no doubt they will do their due diligence with Rocker. To be quite frank, if he’s good to go, he’s top 10 material and that puts him right in the Cubs’ wheelhouse. He would a top of the rotation arm, for sure. A 2 at the minimum, a 1 if the pitch lab does wonders with him.
Greg Zumach , North Side Bound’s own resident draft expert, added the following to the post:
“I appreciate Todd letting me jump in. The biggest question in the 2022 Draft class – Is Kumar Rocker healthy? – looks like it will finally be answered over the next few weeks. One of the few “knocks” (really we were very picky) on Kumar last year was his less than optimal fastball shape, meaning that the ball didn’t ride up in the zone as much as you’d prefer. It tended to get “flat”. Velocity is an important factor in pitch design, but hitters can still mash flat fastballs. At Rocker’s peak, his fastball could eat SEC hitters up.”
“Even more exciting, the Frontier League has partnered with Baseball Cloud and Yakkertech to provide analytics. The lack of publicly available data meant that this had to be passed along from scouts and analysts. Now, at least a portion of these metrics will be shared on the broadcasts allowing for writers and draft fans to follow along at home.”
“So now the question is if Kumar looks healthy, could he go to the Cubs at 7? I wouldn’t rule anything out, though I think Rocker will really need to look like his prime self these next 4-6 weeks to be in strong consideration. I know I’ll be tuning into broadcasts for one of the most exciting seasons in Independent ball history.”