With the Kansas City Royals having potentially 7 of the top 100 picks in next June’s draft (currently own numbers 18, 31, and 37), we’re going to be doing a ton of draft coverage here at Royals Farm Report. Part of our draft coverage will include draft targets for the Royals for the upcoming draft. Our fourth draft target is a prep RHP from The Peach State that I am absolutely in love with.
Kumar Rocker is a 6′ 5″, 250′ 18-year old RHP from Watkinsville, GA, that may have the best natural stuff of anyone in this draft class. Ethan Hankins has the 100 mph fastball. Brady Singer has the complete package. But no one in this class has the raw ability that Rocker does. The kid is one of the most gifted baseball players I’ve ever seen at the high school level, and he still has a ton of room to improve as well.
There is so much to love about Rocker as a starting pitching prospect. To begin with, if he somehow fell to Kansas City at #18, he’d instantly become the Royals top prospect, in my opinion. The Royals don’t have anyone in their system that comes close to Rocker in terms of a starting pitching prospect.
Rocker uses his big frame really well. He reminds me a ton of Michael Pineda, in the sense that he uses his massive legs to generate a ton of torque in his lower half. Rocker’s fastball reaches 96-98 with relative ease, mostly because of how well he uses his 6′ 5″ 250′ frame.
What’s more regarding Rocker’s fastball is how fast really looks. Rocker’s second best pitch, in my opinion, is a filthy changeup that sits in the range of 87-90 mph. What makes Rocker’s changeup so effective is that he doesn’t slow his body down when he throws it. The hitter then sees fastball out of his hand begins to swing at a fastball. By the time he realizes it’s a changeup, the pitch has already dropped 6-8 inches and is well on its way out of the hitting zone. Then when Rocker comes back with a fastball on the next pitch, 98 looks a whole lot like 101 all of a sudden.
If you follow MLB Pipeline at all, you may have noticed that Rocker has slipped a bit in recent 2018 draft rankings. I talked to an executive in a big league front office recently who said one concern with Rocker is that he may not get any better. The worry is, “What if he’s done growing? What if he never gets better?”
Here’s my counter to that, how many big league starters do you know that throw 98 mph fastballs and a 90 mph changeup? Rocker doesn’t need to continue to get bigger or throw any harder. What he needs to do is refine his mechanics a bit, continue to develop his breaking ball, and learn how to locate his fastball. His fastball has some natural tilt to it, thanks to Rocker’s high 3/4 release. If he learns to sink it in a range of 94-95 mph, he could quickly become the ace of a big league rotation.
Just watch the kid throw. Who wouldn’t want that frame and skill level in their farm system? Ironically enough, Mike makes a good point in his tweet about Miami picking a few spots in front of Kansas City. I’m not sure that Rocker will still be available for Kansas City to take at number 18, but if he is, they’d be foolish to pass on him.