A strong athletic pedigree, intimidating presence, and dominant fastball. That’s what makes Kumar Rocker one of the most interesting prospects in this year’s draft class.
Kumar Rocker 2018 MLB Draft Profile
Kumar Rocker is a right-handed pitcher from North Oconee High School in Bogart, Georgia. The 18-year old stands 6’5″ and 250 pounds. Rocker is the son of former All-American and NFL defensive tackle Tracy Rocker, who is now defensive line coach for the University of Tennessee. Kumar is committed to play for Vanderbilt University this fall.
Rocker is an imposing figure on the mound. His football build is unlike any pitcher in the game now. He generates a strong lower half and explodes off the mound. He brings a three-pitch mix: fastball, slider, and changeup.
The fastball is elite and generates velocity with ease. Rocker stays in the mid-90s with it but his physique allows him to easily touch 98. Scouts are infatuated over the sinking action Rocker’s fastball creates when he’s able to get on top of the ball in his delivery. Steve Fiorindo of Perfect Game noted this during one of Rocker’s starts in March, saying his fastball was, “impossible to lift when located in the lower third.”
Rocker possesses a wipe-out slider that can reach the high 80s. It’s a powerful pitch that Rocker can throw with little effort. He also throws a changeup that doesn’t project more than average but is nonetheless solid. In all, Rocker has an eminent three-pitch repertoire that rivals any prep pitcher in this draft.
Rocker is electric on the mound. However, it doesn’t come without concerns. His command and mechanics project as below-average and they bring forth problems with his pitches.
MLB Pipeline noted that Rocker’s, “shoulder opens early at times, giving batters a good look at his fastball.” His mechanics can cause his fastball to flatten allowing hitters to drive it. But this has become less of an issue as he progressed this season.
His command mostly affects the slider and changeup. The slide—like the fastball—flattens and doesn’t miss bats when his control is off. Unlike his fastball, the changeup command determines whether it’s a good pitch or a bad one.
In the long run, scouts don’t see this as a major issue going forward. With that said, it could cause him to drop out of the first round. With Rocker committed to attend Vanderbilt this fall, he may ask for above-slot money regardless of where he’s chosen. Most teams aren’t willing to sign non-first round players for first-round money unless they can sign their first selection for under-slot money.
MLB Player Comparison
It’s hard to compare a player of Rocker’s stature. Detroit Tigers right-handed pitcher Michael Fulmer is the best comparison. They both feature the same three-pitch combo and use them in the same fashion. Fulmer’s fastball is more of a sinker, which Rocker will be capable of throwing once he advances. The sliders are different in movement—Fulmer has more vertical moment, Rocker horizontal—but both are effective strikeout pitches.
Where Rocker slots in this year’s draft is anyone’s guess. The consensus is that if he is not selected in the first round, he will honor his commitment to SEC powerhouse Vanderbilt and any team willing to select him after the first round is going to have to pony up first-round pool money to sign him.
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