The 2021 MLB deadline for drafted players to sign is now past us. The New York Mets opted not to sign RHP Kumar Rocker. The Mets were concerned from medicals with the pitcher. It appeared that Rocker’s elbow was not up to 100 percent, and instead of accepting an over-slot deal at six million, the team chose to not sign him.
Mets fans were excited once Rocker landed 10th overall in the MLB Draft. Rocker had a stellar junior year at Vanderbilt, pitching to a 14-4 record with a 2.73 ERA. The hard-throwing pitcher also netted 179 strikeouts in 20 starts for the Commodores. His best performance came against South Carolina, where he struck out 14 batters. For a player who had issues concerning his elbow, those stats do not show an unhealthy pitcher.
The medical reports showed damage in Rocker’s arm, leaving the Mets concerned. Since Rocker was not signed, what could be next for him? People might be wondering, well if he didn’t sign, can’t he just sign with another MLB team? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Rocker would have to re-enter as part of the 2022 Draft. That is due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement set by the MLB.
Rocker has announced that he will not be returning for his senior season at Vanderbilt. Since he is not going back to school, he has the option where he could go to independent baseball or international baseball. Surprisingly, he would not be the first player to be selected in an MLB Draft to play internationally. Carter Stewart currently pitches for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League. Stewart was selected 8th overall by the Atlanta Braves in the 2018 Draft. After suffering a wrist injury, the Braves opted to let Stewart walk. Currently, Stewart’s fastball is up to 94, throwing to a 2.32 ERA overseas.
If that doesn’t sound enticing to Kumar, he could go the route that Luke Hochevar went. Hochevar was selected in the 40th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005. After not signing, he chose to make some starts with the Fort Worth Cats. After making four starts with the Cats, Hochevar was then selected 1st overall in the 2006 Draft by the Kansas City Royals. This could be potential, considering how many independent leagues are across America today. But ultimately, it will be Rocker’s decision for what the future holds.
As for the Mets, they lose another top draft pick. Just during the MLB Trade Deadline, the team opted to flip top outfield prospect Pete-Crow Armstrong to the Cubs in return for Javier Baez and Trevor Williams. They’ve been successful in prior drafts, still holding onto Brett Baty who is currently playing for AA Binghamton. The Mets also have international signings, Francisco Alvarez and Ronny Mauricio. Hopefully, the Mets will leave these three as their untouchable prospects to prepare them for a future in Queens.
Unfortunately, the Mets lose another pick, like they also lost OF Jarred Kelenic in 2018. Rocker could also take the year off completely and work out until it’s time for the 2022 Draft. But for a pitcher like Rocker, it shouldn’t be a shocker for him to keep himself as a top 10 pick for next year’s draft. It would be fun to watch another young player go overseas to begin a professional career, but is that a part of Rocker’s plan? What will Kumar Rocker do? Does he wait a whole year until 2022? Or will he join an independent or international baseball team?