“Walk by faith and not by fear.”
This was the motto of Kumar Rocker after being selected 10th overall in the 2021 Draft by the Mets but failing to sign with the team after his medical information raised concerns about the right-hander’s shoulder and elbow, which he had surgery on in September 2021.
Two years after being selected for the first time and nearly a year after signing with the Rangers and being drafted 3rd overall in 2022, Rocker will begin his journey to the bigs.
The former Vanderbilt star is set to make his professional debut with High-A Hickory on Saturday against Winston-Salem.
Rocker pitched in just one game this spring training, tossing a lone eighth inning as the Rangers scored a 6-4 win over the Rockies at Surprise Stadium.
He opted to sign with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the independent Frontier League in 2022 after not securing a deal with the Mets, appearing in five games, tossing 20 innings, allowing just three earned runs and fanning 32 batters. Rocker also got time on the bump in the Arizona Fall League as part of the Surprise Saguaros. There he started in all six of his appearances, twirling 14 innings, allowing seven earned runs, walking 12 batters and striking out 18.
“I’ve known him since he was a young kid in high school and through his Vandy years, obviously last year especially,” Director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg told MLB.com. “I probably saw him seven times [last year]. Then getting up there and feeling comfortable when he was in the independent league, we felt very comfortable with the stuff — it’s actually probably a better version of Kumar right now than it was in college.”
The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder has impressed at every level. He threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter against Duke in the NCAA super regionals and earned two victories and Most Outstanding Player honors at the College World Series as a freshman in 2019, then led NCAA Division I in wins (14) and strikeouts (179 in 122 innings, tying teammate Jack Leiter) while leading Vandy back to the College World Series championship in his final collegiate season.
“He’s just an elite competitor, a guy that lays it all on the line every time he goes out there with plus-plus stuff,” Fagg said. “There’s not many guys that come around like this guy, that’s as physically gifted and competitive and driven as he is. It’s hard to find a bad thing about Kumar.”
The bright lights haven’t fazed Rocker and with his arm strengthen seemingly back to full strength, the time has come for him to simply play the game he loves, which he always does at a high level.
“This guy’s got dominating stuff, tremendous slider,” manager Bruce Bochy told MLB.com. “I’m looking forward to watching him in a few games. He’s a tremendous talent, and I think he’s going to be on a fast pace now once he gets going in the Minor Leagues.”