2022 MLB Draft: Kumar Rocker Signs With Frontier League's Tri-City ValleyCats
One of this year’s biggest draft mysteries is finally resolved.
For the entire 2022 draft cycle, scouts have wondered where, and how often, former Vanderbilt righthander Kumar Rocker would pitch before the draft this July. After the Mets selected Rocker with their No. 10 pick in the 2021 draft, but failed to sign him due to a medical issue, Rocker’s draft status has been in flux.
Today, the industry learned Rocker will sign with the Tri-City ValleyCats, a club in the Frontier League, where he will pitch prior to the 2022 draft.
Rocker was the highest-ranking high school player to make it to campus since Baseball America began its recruiting rankings. He ranked as the No. 13 player in a 2018 draft class loaded on prep pitching talent, but honored his commitment to Vanderbilt, where he dominated for three seasons, posting a 2.89 ERA over 236.2 innings and helping push the Commodores to a College World Series championship in 2019 as a freshman.
After establishing himself as an elite college starter, Rocker ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the 2021 draft class.
After the negotiations with the Mets went south, Rocker’s draft stock around the industry has largely been in limbo, with scouts unable to see him pitch or presumably gain any more confidence in his health or lack thereof. He currently ranks as the No. 35 prospect in the 2022 class.
If Rocker pitches well with Tri-City and looks like the same pitcher who regularly overwhelmed hitters with upper-90s fastballs and vicious breaking balls, he certainly has the talent and track record to once again find himself in the first round—particularly given the current state of college pitching.
Still, any final decision on Rocker could ultimately come down to what team doctors have to say.
Rocker is continuing a lengthy tradition of unsigned draftees heading to the independent leagues (now called partner leagues) in preparation for the MLB draft. Here's a look at indy ball players who have been drafted. This list doesn't include another group of prominent players such as Max Scherzer (who pitched for Fort Worth) and Stephen Drew (who played in Camden) who played in independent leagues but then signed before the deadline to re-enter the draft.
|1995||1||RHP||Ariel Prieto||Palm Springs (Western League)|
|2000||2||SS||Bobby Hill||Newark (Atlantic League)|
|2000||9||RHP||Bryan Edwards||Newark (Atlantic League)|
|2001||2||RHP||Matt Harrington||St. Paul (Northern League)|
|2002||13||RHP||Matt Harrington||Long Beach (Western League)|
|2002||31||RHP||Mayque Quintero||Sonoma County (Western League)|
|2003||24||RHP||Matt Harrington||Fort Worth (Central League)|
|2004||36||RHP||Matt Harrington||Fort Worth (Central League)|
|2006||1||RHP||Luke Hochevar||Fort Worth (American Association)|
|2007||4||RHP||Tim Bascom||Bradenton (South Coast)|
|2008||23||RHP||Jason Jarvis||Lincoln Saltdogs (American Association)|
|2008||25||RHP||Tanner Roark||Southern Illinois Miners (Frontier)|
|2009||1||RHP||Aaron Crow||Fort Worth (American Association)|
|2009||1s||RHP||Tanner Scheppers||St. Paul (American Association)|
|2010||4||LHP||James Paxton||Grand Prairie (American Association)|
|2017||11||LHP||Hunter Williams||Washington (Frontier League)|