The Pittsburgh Pirates have the first overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. It appears they will have the chance to draft a top pitcher.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates were struggling last season, there was a common phrase among the fanbase: “Tank for Kumar.” Kumar Rocker, right-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt, was seen as the best draft prospect in baseball, at least among fans. He was most notable for his run in the 2019 College World Series, where he first threw a no hitter with 19 strikeouts against Duke and then in the finals threw 6.1 innings of one run ball, striking out 11 against Michigan. Because of this, he was famous and a notable arm (he was also a top prospect out of high school), becoming the favorite among fans to go with the first pick. Additionally, with limited time viewing prospects a season ago, Rocker was seen as the best prospect in the draft by many outlets.
However, his teammate has matched Rocker step-for-step this season. Jack Leiter, son of Al, is a right handed pitcher with a short arm action. On the season, the right-hander has pitched three games (15 innings) and has posted a 0.60 ERA with 26 strikeouts and seven walks. For comparison, Rocker has a 0.60 ERA with 25 strikeouts and seven walks over 15 innings and three starts.
The thing that sticks out most for Leiter is the stuff, sitting in the upper 90s with a plus curveball and a developing slider. There is an athletic frame on the righty and he has continued to develop every year. Rocker features a plus slider and also sits in the 90s, but has less of a projectable frame compared to Leiter. Kiley McDaniel of ESPN recently wrote about the two at ESPN, comparing there starts two outings ago.
It appears that Leiter is making the push to be taken with the first overall pick. Prospect analysts like McDaniel, Keith Law, and Eric Longenhagen have Leiter ranked ahead of Rocker for now. With SEC play not starting yet for Vanderbilt, it’ll be something to watch how these two pitch against better competition. For now, Leiter appears to be 1A to Rocker’s 1B, as the two have pitched almost identically so far this season.