2022 MLB Draft: Kumar Rocker drafted third overall by Texas Rangers

Vanderbilt great Kumar Rocker was selected third overall by the Texas Rangers in the 2022 MLB Draft, joining former VandyBoys teammate Jack Leiter.

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Vanderbilt Athletics

Kumar Rocker throws a strike against NC State at the 2021 College World Series. (Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics)

Bryce Smith, Sports Editor

A year after being selected tenth overall in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft by the New York Mets, Kumar Rocker was once again chosen in the opening round of the draft, this time by the Texas Rangers with the third overall pick.

For Rocker, it has been quite the journey to get to this point. Shortly after his announcement as a member of the Mets farm system, problems began to emerge with the right-hander’s medical information after he lost a few miles-per-hour (MPH) on his fastball over the course of his junior season. Ultimately, New York did not offer Rocker a contract and he decided to forgo his college eligibility to focus on training for the 2022 MLB Draft. 

The former national champion and College World Series Most Outstanding Player opted to sign a deal with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Frontier League in May. Later, it was revealed that he indeed had an issue in his throwing arm; Rocker had shoulder surgery in September of 2021, described as a “minor scope.” The right-hander returned to the mound on June 5, 2022, and made five appearances for the ValleyCats posting a line of 20 innings pitched, 32 strikeouts and a 1.32 ERA while touching 98 MPH on his fastball. 

With concerns about his arm health a thing of the past, the Rangers jumped at the chance to land a talent like Rocker in the first round of the draft. 

As a Commodore, Rocker ranked fourth in program history in strikeouts (318) and tallied a 7-1 NCAA Tournament record. He was one of the most dominant pitchers in recent college baseball history amassing a career 2.89 ERA in 236 innings pitched for Vanderbilt, including a 19-strikeout no-hitter in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. 

“He’s a one-in-a-million kid. His fibers are so real and so pure. He just loves team. He’s connected to competition…He will go down as one of the best we have ever had at Vanderbilt,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said after Rocker’s final collegiate outing in 2021. “He’s meant so much to our program; he’s meant a lot to college baseball; he’s meant a lot to the SEC.”

Rocker, reuniting with former Vanderbilt teammate Jack Leiter, will join the Rangers as one of their top prospects. The eyes of MLB fans across the country will be focused on his development over the coming years.

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