Pittsburgh Pirates: Possibility of Drafting Kumar Rocker

Kumar Rocker will re-enter the MLB draft after his contract fell through last season, but should he be on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ radar?

Last year, one of the biggest names in the draft was Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker. Rocker ended up being selected by the New York Mets tenth overall, but because of issues regarding physicals, the Mets and Rocker were unable to come to terms. Rocker will re-enter the draft, looking to get selected by a Major League team, but should he still be on the Pittsburgh Pirates radar?

MLB Pipeline currently ranks Rocker as the 39th overall best draft prospect. He throws a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. Rocker’s breaking pitches are elite, and his fastball has late sinking action. Although not nearly on the same level as his other pitches, his change-up is still solid and a pitch he can get outs with.

Rocker’s velocity was all over the place last year. Sometimes he couldn’t get above 95 MPH; other times, he fired gas at 97-99 MPH. That was one of the main reasons his draft stock fell in 2021. Rocker didn’t return to Vandy this year, instead deciding to pitch with Frontier League Tri-City ValleyCats.

In Rocker’s first start of 2022, the big right-hander pitched four innings, allowing two runs on a home run, but had six strikeouts and allowed zero batters to reach base via free pass. Rocker averaged around 94-97 MPH but hit 99 MPH a few times in his start. That kind of speed is unprecedented in the Frontier League. Most Division-1 kids toss harder than many of the pitchers in the Frontier League.

Overall, he’s tossed 14 innings in the Frontier League with 22 K’s and just two walks. He did give up two home runs, but he isn’t pitching consistently. Rocker is only throwing at home with the Tri-City ValleyCats. He isn’t pitching in away contests and is only there to show off his stuff and get stretched out for the 2022 minor league season.

Rocker is ranked as the 39th best draft prospect by MLB Pipeline and the Pirates have the 36th overall pick. There’s a fair chance that the talented right-hander will be available when the Pirates are on the clock. But does that mean the Pirates should consider Rocker?

The Pittsburgh Pirates should take college pitchers into consideration heavily. But Rocker might end up being an over slot signing. Not very often do you find college players as over slot draft picks, mainly because it usually takes a decent amount to pry high school kids away from commitments, but Rocker being as highly touted as he is and falling out of the top 30 may constitute more than his slot value.

At the very least, the Bucs need to keep Rocker in mind during this year’s draft. He’s a guy who could be knocking on the doorstep of the major leagues around this time next season. He could be a dominant force with Quinn Priester and Roansy Contreras by the end of the 2022 campaign.