WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES JULY 15, 2021 11
Kumar Rocker pitches against the Mississippi at TD Ameritrade Park on
June 30, 2021. Photo by Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY Sports
Lofty expectations await
Mets’ No. 1 draft pick
BY JOE PANTORNO
The Mets’ pitching factory added
another attractive cog to its wheel
on Sunday night, July 11, when
highly regarded Vanderbilt prospect
Kumar Rocker fell into their laps with
the 10th pick of the 2021 MLB Draft .
The 21-year-old righty was ranked
the fifth-best prospect by Baseball
America and sixth-best by MLB Pipeline.
He was regarded as the No. 2
pitcher in the entire 2021 draft class
behind only Jack Leiter — his Vanderbilt
teammate who went second overall
to the Texas Rangers.
Quite a catch at 10th overall.
“We’re still so elated here … that
Kumar got to us. We really thought
there was very little chance that this
would happen — a pitcher of this talent
and his portfolio,” said Tommy Tanous,
Mets vice president of amateur and
international scouting. “This doesn’t
happen very oft en. We feel very fortunate
that his name and magnet was
still on the board. Kumar was more of
a dream than anything else.”
During his 2021 season at Vanderbilt,
Kumar went 14-4 with a 2.73
ERA, 179 strikeouts, and 39 walks in
20 starts. Those 14 wins were tops in
NCAA Division I while his punchouts
were tied for fi rst with Leiter. In his
three years at the collegiate powerhouse,
he went 28-10 with a 2.89 ERA
and 321 strikeouts.
“New York is another animal, but
that’s what I feel like I was made for,”
Rocker said. “They’re getting a guy
with a track record of winning.”
Mets director of amateur scouting,
Marc Tramuta, suggested that Rocker
is ready for the spotlight in Queens
aft er pitching at the “New York City of
college baseball,” at Vanderbilt.
“This is a supremely talented player,
but even more, it’s elite makeup,”
Tramuta continued. “He’s been under
that microscope for so long and always
But there were some concerns surrounding
Rocker leading up to the
draft . A member of an MLB organization
that was picking even lower in
the fi rst round of the draft said that
they “probably would have passed” on
him because of his agent — the highprofi
led Scott Boras — and concerns
about his consistency involving his
secondary pitches and delivery.
That included a strike rate of under
50 percent with his fastball and a
majority of his misses with his slider
coming from chases.
“It’s hard to pass on pedigree and
makeup,” they added.
That drop isn’t being used as extra
motivation for Rocker, though.
“From now on, it’s what you do aft er
this,” he said.
For a Mets team that is desperate
for viable starting pitching depth aft er
injuries have ransacked their rotation,
Kumar could be a godsend for the club
— which bungled a bullpen game on
Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates
in which they blew a 5-0 lead to lose.
The Mets currently have four
healthy starters in Jacob deGrom,
Taijuan Walker, Marcus Stroman and
Tylor Megill, while Carlos Carrasco
and Noah Syndergaard rehab from
injuries. Carrasco is inching ever so
closer to his Mets debut while Syndergaard
is slated to return in September.