Pittsburgh Pirates: Rocker Continues to Shine While Leiter Struggles

Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker (80) takes the field as he is introduced before the game against South Alabama at Hawkins Field Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.Nas Vandy Baseball Home Opener 027
Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker (80) takes the field as he is introduced before the game against South Alabama at Hawkins Field Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.Nas Vandy Baseball Home Opener 027 /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates have the first overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. The two most likely candidates are Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter.

After having the worst record in baseball in 2020, with a 19-41 record, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have the first overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.  The best high schooler, Jordan Lawler, could be in player at the first overall pick, but it seems that the pick will come down to one of the two Vanderbilt right-handed pitchers.  Jack Leiter has really blossomed this season and has seen his stock rise to being pitcher 1A in the DraftKumar Rocker has continued his dominant run so far this season, and has started to answer some questions about his draft profile.

In their most recent series, Vanderbilt took on number 13 Oklahoma State in a three game set.  With Friday’s game being cancelled, the two teams played a double header on Saturday with Rocker starting game one and Leiter starting game two.  Vanderbilt won both games, but the two pitchers pitched completely different.

In game one, Rocker came out hot.  He pitched eight shutout innings, allowing only two hits and one walk while striking out nine and getting 12 groundouts to three fly outs.  One of the bigger questions on Rocker is his command, and in his toughest challenge of the year, Rocker was able to show good command and to pitch late into the game.  The stamina and how Rocker will hold up over the length of a start is another question that he was able to answer.  It was a really good start against a good team and the Vanderbilt ace was able to perform.

In game two, Leiter struggled a bit more, especially with his command.  He only lasted five innings because at bats dragged out, throwing 96 total pitches to just 19 batters, as he only threw 57 percent strikes.  Overall, Leiter allowed no runs and showed his strikeout stuff, striking out seven, but the command wasn’t there.  The Vandy co-ace walked three batters against the best competition he has faced all year.  This is something to watch, as scouts seem to prefer Leiter’s future command projection to Rocker’s.

Next. Pirates: Four Breakout Prospects in 2021. dark

In their first challenge of the season against a really good team, Rocker was able to answer some questions about stamina and command whereas Leiter struggled a bit with the command, working deep at bats.  In what projects to be a tight race for the Pirates first overall pick, after what on paper was the most challenging starts, Rocker gets the slight edge over Leiter.  With SEC play starting soon, Rocker and Leiter will get more opportunities to separate themselves.

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