We are just over a week out from the 2022 MLB amateur draft, which means there is only so much time left to get all of our speculation in. We’ve examined what the draft experts are predicting for the Colorado Rockies not once but twice already. The consensus is the Rockies will pick a college hitter, not only due to the abundance of hitters at the top of the class but also because it tracks with Colorado’s draft philosophy.
This narrative has not changed and most agree that one of Jacob Berry, Gavin Cross or Jace Jung will likely end up being Colorado’s selection. But with all this hitting at the top of the board, could the Rockies possibly look to select the first pitcher instead?
The top two arms throughout the season have been high school righties Dylan Lesko and Brock Porter. The Rockies’ general attitude towards drafting a high school pitcher in the first round is like that of a child touching a hot stove again, so we can feel pretty safe in assuming they’re out there.
But there is another name in the conversation that could become a trick up Colorado’s sleeve…Kumar Rocker.
Nick Groke at The Athletic recently participated in the site’s mock draft and went with this approach, selecting the former Vanderbilt right-hander for Colorado.
Does Rocker come with a risk? Of course. But so do fringy free agents and, especially, younger draft picks. In this case, the Rockies can skip over the four or five years of development waiting to see if the risk pays off and add a starting pitcher now. His profile might not be perfect for Denver, but Rocker gives the Rockies a perfect Coors Field loophole to add a starting pitcher. — Nick Groke
Groke hits on Rocker’s potential, but mostly leans on the Rockies’ need to add pitching in a cost effective manner, given the franchise’s inability to attract free-agent pitching to Colorado. It’s a big swing, but there is merit to the argument of adding a near MLB-ready arm at a discount, especially given the numerous pitching setbacks in the farm system this year.
So let’s talk about the risk and reward in taking Rocker, because it is extremely high.
Kumar Rocker 2019-2021
Before enrolling at Vanderbilt University, the Rockies’ kicked the tires on Kumar Rocker, selecting him in the 38th round of the 2018 draft. As expected, he did not sign and instead went on to produce three phenomenal seasons for the Commodores from 2019-2021, earning multiple First Team All-SEC and All-American honors along with finalist recognition for the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser Awards in his junior season.
This prestigious collegiate career led many to project Rocker as one of the top prospects of the 2021 draft. After a minor slide, he was ultimately selected by the New York Mets with the 10th selection. But the Mets flinched at Rocker’s medical report, electing not to offer Rocker a signing-bonus and instead taking the 11th pick in the upcoming draft as compensation.
It has come to light that Rocker’s shoulder was the area of concern, and he did in fact undergo surgery in September to repair the damage. He signed with the Tri-City Valley Cats of the Frontier League, but his recovery kept him out of game action until June.
But Rocker has looked like the same pitcher since his return, pitching 20 innings over five starts with a 1.35 ERA and 32-to-4 K-to-BB. Scouts in attendance reported the velocity consistently sitting in the mid-to-high 90’s again and his breaking ball looking as sharp as it did in 2021.
His performance and continued health has put Rocker back in the first-round conversation, and with the tenth overall pick the Rockies will (again) be in a position to nab the 6-foot-4, 245 pound righty. Mocks from MLB.com, Prospects Live and CBS Sports expect Rocker to be selected in the mid-to-late first round this time around. There’s a non-zero chance the Rockies could have a second crack at Rocker with the 31st overall pick, but it’s more likely if they want Kumar they’ll have to take him at 10.
First round college P that didn’t sign
The track record for college pitchers drafted in the first round that did not sign over the past twenty years is not stellar, though, and this is the peer group Kumar Rocker is set to join. Mark Appel jumped up to the first overall pick in 2013 after electing not to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates a year prior, but his career has been tumultuous and he just recently reached the major leagues as a reliever. Denver native Luke Hochevar also jumped up to the top pick after not signing out of college. He went on to a fine nine-year career, but was never much more than middle reliever for Kansas City. The stories are still being written for Drew Rasmussen and Kyle Funkhouser, but two players on the list – Barret Loux and Wade Townsend – never made it to the big leagues at all.
Most of those players elected not to sign because of monetary disputes rather than health concerns. But a quick look at two of the most recent pitchers to receive the snub from their drafting team because of health concerns — Carter Stewart with the Atlanta Braves in 2018 and Brady Aiken with the Houston Astros in 2014 — offers even less promise as Stewart’s big league career is still up-in-the-air while he plays in Japan and Aiken stepped away from the game in 2019.
So this is what the Kumar Rocker conversation boils down to; which pitcher do you think you will end up getting?
You could end up with a front-line starter and the best pitcher in the class, like many anticipated heading into the 2021 draft. And you can likely get him at a relative discount, considering he has already sat out an entire year and will likely be motivated to get his professional career on track.
Or, you could sink a considerable amount of capital into a pitcher whose shoulder will continue to be a problem, ultimately leading to a pitcher that is largely ineffective or possibly never a major leaguer at all.
It’s high risk, high reward. So what would you do if you were the Rockies? Do you take the chance on a potential ace, or is the risk not worth it? Let us know below.
Would you want COL to draft Kumar Rocker?
This poll is closed
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Rockies podcast: Colorado’s all-star candidates, prospects in Futures Game, upcoming MLB trade deadline | Denver Post
Kyle Newman and Patrick Saunders are back for the latest On the Rox podcast. In this edition, the two writers examine the case for C.J. Cron and Daniel Bard cracking the All-Star team. They also dive into Ezequiel Tovar and Zac Veen being selected for the Futures Game and touch on some possible moves the organization could make leading up to the August 2 trade deadline.
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On The Farm
The Isotopes fell into an early hole they couldn’t climb out of against Round Rock. The Express put up four in the bottom of the first inning against starter Brandon Gold before adding one more in the third and two in the fifth. All told, Gold had a tough night with 12 hits, four walks and seven runs allowed in just four innings. Wynton Bernard and D.J. Peterson slugged solo home runs in the third and seventh innings, but it was not enough for Albuquerque to mount a comeback.
Willie MacIver and Daniel Montano hit solo homers early on for Hartford, and entering the fifth the Yard Goats and Fisher Cats were tied-up at two apiece. Starter Nick Bush had been solid to that point, but ran into trouble and gave up two runs on two doubles in fifth to put Hartford down for good. Bush finished with seven strikeouts and no walks in six innings, but ultimately took the loss as Hartford was unable to generate any offense in the late innings.
Will Ethridge was tremendous in his start against the Dust Devils, tossing six shutout innings with only three hits allowed. The offense gave him plenty of support in those innings, putting up five runs in the first five innings. Ronaiker Palma kicked off the Spokane offense with an RBI single in the second inning, followed by a run scoring single by Zac Veen and double by Julio Carreras in the third. Eddy Diaz added on with an inside-the-park home run in the fifth before Palma knocked in the final run with another single in the eighth.
The Indians held Tri-City off the board until the ninth, when things got dicey. The Dust Devils recorded four straight hits off Robinson Hernandez to plate two runs before giving way to Blake Goldsberry. Things wouldn’t get better as Goldsberry issued a walk to load the bases before surrendering a run-scoring single and another walk to bring the score to 6-4. But he’d right the ship with a strikeout before handing the ball to Austin Kitchen, who secured the final two outs for the save.
The Fresno Grizzlies came out on top of a tight game against the Giants. After trailing 1-0 early on, Fresno took their first lead on a Juan Brito double to plate the second run in the bottom of the first. San Jose would answer in the second and the game remained locked at two until the sixth. Starter Brayan Castillo allowed two to score in the top of the frame, but Juan Guerrero got one back with an RBI double in the bottom of the inning. The Giants would respond in the seventh, but so would Benny Montgomery with a run-scoring single before Guerrero hit his ninth home run of the season to tie up the game after eight innings of play. The Grizzlies would hold the Giants scoreless in the top half before Adael Amador drove-in the winning run with a single in the bottom of the ninth.
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