Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look at the Best Draft Prospect Tools

Alabama starting pitcher Connor Prielipp delivers the ball to the plate as the Crimson Tide opened the season against McNeese Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Sewell-Thomas Stadium. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]Alabama Vs Mcneese
Alabama starting pitcher Connor Prielipp delivers the ball to the plate as the Crimson Tide opened the season against McNeese Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Sewell-Thomas Stadium. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]Alabama Vs Mcneese /
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OMAHA, NEBRASKA – JUNE 30: Starting pitcher Kumar Rocker #80 of the Vanderbilt reacts after giving up a run against Luke Hancock #20 of the Mississippi St. in the top of the fifth inning during game three of the College World Series Championship at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha on June 30, 2021 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NEBRASKA – JUNE 30: Starting pitcher Kumar Rocker #80 of the Vanderbilt reacts after giving up a run against Luke Hancock #20 of the Mississippi St. in the top of the fifth inning during game three of the College World Series Championship at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha on June 30, 2021 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Best Slider – Kumar Rocker

It’s a real mystery where Kumar Rocker ends up in this year’s draft. Around this time last year, he was projected to go top 3. However, erratic velocity throughout the 2021 college season led to Rocker’s value falling to the 10th overall pick by the New York Mets. Many saw this as a massive steal, but in a twist of events, the Mets and Rocker couldn’t come to an agreement. This mainly stemmed from injury questions, leaving him to re-enter this year’s draft.

The last we saw of Rocker, he put up a 2.73 ERA and 0.93 WHIP through 122 innings at Vanderbilt. Rocker struck out well over a third of batters faced (36.5%) while only having an 8% walk rate and 0.59 HR/9. Although Rocker’s fastball velocity was all over the place in 2021, his slider was the pitch many came to see.

It’s a low-to-mid-80’s slider with nasty late break. Not only does it have horizontal break, but it has a whole lot of drop as well. This pitch, along with a plus fastball, curveball, and changeup, made Rocker one of the best pitchers in 2021’s draft

https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1410392650633654278

Since Rocker isn’t eligible to return to play at Vanderbilt, he will now pursue an opportunity with an independent league club leading up to the draft. That way, he can get work in and face competitive batters while also showcasing his ability to scouts. The one issue that still persists is his durability. Injury question is what led to his deal with the Mets falling through, and he already had 236 innings on his arm then. He’ll add more if he pitches with an indy league team.

Still, the talent can’t be denied. A potent four-pitch mix with three of the offerings grading out in the plus-plus to elite range is a good start. It’d be awesome if Rocker were still available when the Pirates were on the clock in the second round. Although it’s not impossible to see Rocker fall that far, chances are he’ll get picked in the late-first round.

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