Vanderbilt ace Kumar Rocker watched four other pitchers have their names called in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft — including teammate Jack Leiter — before hearing his.
Rocker’s wait wasn’t too long, however, as the 6-foot-5 righty was taken No. 10 overall by the New York Mets. He is the third Commodore drafted by the Mets and first since David Joiner in 1987.
Rocker is also the 12th Vanderbilt player drafted in the top 10 under Tim Corbin.
“This is an alpha,” Corbin said during the MLB Draft broadcast. “This is a strong puncher. I think of him as a Joe Lewis-type guy; he’s coming right after you. He’s not messing around; he doesn’t like hitters.
“As far as the pitch package is concerned, I compared him to (Lewis) because I think there’s some similarities there in terms of their delivery and how they finish, obviously. I think more than anything else, the delivery is not manufactured; it’s his personality. It’s how he pitches.”
In three seasons, Rocker had a 28-10 record with a 2.89 ERA and 321 strikeouts in 236.2 innings pitched. He was an All-SEC first team selection this season while leading the NCAA in wins (14) and tying Leiter for the NCAA lead in strikeouts (179). Rocker is just the second player since 1988 to lead the NCAA in both wins and strikeouts.
In 2019, Rocker and Vanderbilt won a national championship (beating Michigan) and was named the Most Outstanding Player at the College World Series in addition to making the SEC All-Freshman Team. That year he also had a 19-strikeout no-hitter against Duke in Game 2 of the Super Regionals — the first no-hitter in Super Regionals history and the first by a Vanderbilt pitcher since 1971.
“He’s kind of a throwback — a 1960s, ’70s type of pitcher with some really good stuff,” Corbin added. “That slider [is] almost like a gyro ball. It’s a ball that releases like a bullet and at the end, gravity just takes it right to the ground because hitters have a hard time. Bottom line, he’s a winner. He pitches for his team. He’s just been very enjoyable to be around these last three years.”
Rocker was projected as one of the top pitchers in the draft thanks to his diverse pitching arsenal. His fastball has been known to touch 99 miles per hour. And he features a solid curveball and an overpowering slider, which forced 19 swings-and-misses during his Super Regionals no-hitter.
“I love this kid,” former All-Star pitcher C.C. Sabathia said. “He knows how to pitch, he’s got a clean delivery [and] he fills up the strike zone with his fastball. But what I like most is he knows how to pitch with his secondary pitches. His slider is really good, and he throws a lot of strikes with it. I think he’s going to be a really good starter in the future because he knows how to pitch with all his pitches.”
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