One of the most popular and polarizing players in the MLB draft the last two years has been right handed pitcher Kumar Rocker. Kumar Rocker was one of the best players in the 2021 draft, and was selected 10th overall by the New York Mets. Ultimately Rocker did not sign with the Mets because they did not like his medical evaluation, and that is now why he is such a wild card here in the 2022 draft.
No one knows for sure if Rocker is healthy, what the Mets saw last year, and how serious his potential shoulder issues are. However, the potential that we saw Rocker display in his time at Vanderbilt suggests that he is easily a first round pick. Now, Rocker is pitching for an independent league team, where he has gotten back to the mound. He reached 5 innings in his most recent start, and has been looking better lately.
So should the Mariners draft Kumar Rocker?
The short answer is yes. The real answer should be a lot more complicated however. Drafting Rocker is an incredibly large risk, anywhere in the draft. However, the later the M’s could draft him, the lesser the risk. Taking Rocker with the 21st selection would be too great a risk I believe. He could flame out and have shoulder issues, just like former top Mariners prospect Danny Hultzen. However, selecting Rocker in the second round would be worth the risk.
By drafting him in the second round, there is less expected of the right-hander. He does not have to have all of the scrutinies on him if he struggles, or isn’t healthy for a while. Seattle would also not have to pay him as much since the slot value of the M’s 58th pick is roughly $1.275 million vs $3.291 million for the 21st pick. For reference, the M’s spent about $2 million on Sam Carlson in the second round several years back, so spending about $1 million would be a good price.
The former Vandy righty is listed at 6’5″, weighing 245 pounds, and is 22 years old (turning 23 in late November). He has the build of a front of the line starter, and has a strong body of work in college that suggests that he was great. He had many great starts, including a 19-strikeout no-hitter as a FRESHMAN!
The latest news on Rocker is that he had minor shoulder surgery last year, and is now healthy.
In conclusion, Rocker boasts incredible talent and stuff. MLB Pipeline gives him a potential 70-grade slider, 60 fastball, 60 curveball, and 50 changeup with 50 control. That kind of stuff certainly makes him a top of the first-round player. However, his injury concerns are large. The Mariners should look at him in the second round, so they can bolster their farm system. That way they take a big swing on Rocker, without betting too much on him.