The New York Mets have not completed the signing of Kumar Rocker, their 10th-overall draft selection in the 2021 MLB draft, with concerns over his elbow injury weighing heavy on the Mets’ front office.
Who is Kumar Rocker?
As first reported by Ken Davidoff, Rocker and New York have stalled negotiations after they had agreed upon a $6 million bonus the night that the young pitcher’s name was called. As a student at Vanderbilt, Rocker went 28-10 with a 2.89 earned run average and 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings, earning national championship and runner-up status in his three years in the NCAA.
Rocker was the fourth pitcher off the board in the draft and agreed to a bonus usually fit for the fifth or sixth pick that was contingent upon completing his medical; now that the team doctors have had time to look at him more closely, they have discovered a problem with his pitching elbow that has the team hesitating to invest millions of dollars into him.
What’s the Situation?
It is important to note that Rocker’s camp “disagrees” with the Mets’ assessment of his health, citing his durability and NCAA-leading figure in innings pitched last year as proof that he is ready for the strain of a professional schedule.
There is also a third option at play: renegotiate the bonus and get Rocker on board with less compensation, though having already been offered the $6 million deal and having the leverage in the situation, this is the most unlikely of the potential scenarios at hand.
Second-level stats from Kevin Goldstein of FanGraphs indicated that while Rocker’s fastball peaked at 99 miles per hour in his season debut, it had fallen to 92 mph during a March date with Missouri; to his credit, this number rebounded back to 98 and eventually finished at 95 at the end of May.The New York Mets have not completed the signing of Kumar Rocker, the 10th-overall draft selection in the 2021 MLB draft, with concerns over his elbow injury.
The Mets already have the league’s best pitcher, Jacob deGrom, who has gone 7-2 with a historic 1.08 ERA this year, along with a couple of very reliable starters in Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker. They also traded with the Tampa Bay Rays for Rich Hill a week before the deadline, which bolstered their depth even more.
Rocker’s absence, should he remain unsigned, will not make an immediate impact upon the club, but it could significantly hurt their future. The Vanderbilt product has the kind of upside that projects at an All-Star level, which does not come around more than a few times per draft.
Rocker’s future, however, is still bright even if he does not come to an agreement with New York; the recent change in rules regarding name-image-likeness will allow collegiate players to profit through endorsements and other means, with Alabama Quarterback Bryce Young having been rumored to have received nearly one-million dollars before even taking a college snap.
As one of the premier talents in college baseball, Rocker would be guaranteed a decent paycheck, albeit not $6 million, if he were to return to NCAA baseball next year; he forwent his senior season for the draft and was granted an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID rule, meaning that he could play in college for two more years if he wanted to.
Major League Baseball’s rookie signing deadline of August 1 is just a few days away, and the Mets have an unenviable decision to make; forego one of the best talents in this year’s class that can continue pitching greatness in the Big Apple and risk him becoming an All-Star for another team, or pay millions of dollars to a player that could play himself out of the lineup by getting injured.
The Mets have until Sunday to decide if they are going to sign Rockers or let him walk and receive a compensatory pick in exchange.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.