As the 2022 MLB Draft approaches, we at Reviewing the Brew will take a look at potential Brewers draft prospects. Today, let’s look at former Vanderbilt RHP Kumar Rocker.
The curious case of Kumar Rocker. A dominant arm at a dominant program in Vanderbilt, Rocker was a surefire early selection in the 2021 MLB Draft. He ended up being selected 10th overall by the New York Mets.
But, the Mets balked at his post-draft physical, believing there was an issue with his elbow. They drastically reduced their offer, to the lowest level possible while still receiving a compensatory pick for the next draft, and Rocker decided to walk. Now, he re-enters the draft for 2022 and is pitching in the independent Frontier League with the Tri-City ValleyCats.
Because of the health concerns and the limited amount of game action he’s gotten over the last 12 months, Rocker’s draft status has fallen below where he was selected last season. Could he end up with the Brewers at 27?
Kumar Rocker’s draft stock is a wild guess at this point, but he is a first round talent and could be a steal for the Brewers at 27 overall.
The Brewers are no strangers to drafting first round talents that had injury concerns. In 2018, the Brewers drafted Drew Rasmussen in the 6th round after being the 31st overall pick by the Rays the year before. Rasmussen needed Tommy John surgery and didn’t sign, so Milwaukee snagged him for cheap.
Kumar Rocker won’t come quite as cheap, however.
Based on his track record and dominant stuff, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see Rocker get selected in the back half of the first round. If he falls to 27, should the Brewers take him?
Rocker has started four games for Tri-City as of this writing, and he’s gone 15 IP with 25 Ks, just three walks, and has a 1.80 ERA. So, essentially, his stuff and dominance is still there. Rocker has four pitches, three of them being graded as “plus” or higher, with MLB Pipeline giving him a 70 grade on his slider. He’s 6 foot 5 and is built to go deep into ballgames.
He has everything you could be looking for in a pitching prospect, except for that clean bill of health according to the Mets, but so far he’s shown that he is indeed healthy and perhaps the Mets’ medical concerns were unfounded. That wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened (*ahem* Carlos Gomez).
Rocker would instantly become the Brewers top pitching prospect. Yes, even ahead of Ethan Small. Also, Rocker could help out Milwaukee a lot faster than any of the other prospects in this draft, again assuming health. Rocker is 22 years old and has faced some top college competition and now in the Frontier League.
He could start in High-A but realistically could start in Double-A right after the draft. Rocker could be ready for a big league debut perhaps even sometime next season but definitely by some point in 2024. That’s still in the Crew’s contention window.
The strength of this Brewers club is the starting rotation and in order to keep it strong, they need a steady pipeline of top pitching prospects to come through the system. They haven’t added a big pitching prospect since Ethan Small in 2019 and they could use some more in the pipeline.
If Rocker is available at 27, Milwaukee should very strongly consider selecting him. The medical evaluations are obviously going to play a factor, and there are a number of teams in the 15-26 range that could snag him instead. But if he’s there and they’re comfortable with the medicals, he should be a slam dunk selection that scouting director Tod Johnson should rush to turn in.
This is a Top 10 talent that could fall into the Crew’s laps at 27 overall. It’s too good of an opportunity to pass up, if it’s there.