Based off names alone, Kumar Rocker is going to get heads turning. In a draft class where he is ranked in the top 25, according to mlb.com. Rocker is still only the #3 pitching prospect from his state. Pitchers Cole Wilcox and Ethan Hankins stand above the massive RHP.
Standing at 6’5″, 250 lbs. out of North Oconee, Georgia. Rocker is the son of a former NFL defensive lineman. When you add in the size, strength, and bloodlines of this young prep star its enough to get people drooling. In the upcoming draft, Rocker should have teams running to get their hands on the talented prospect. For the Kansas City Royals, Rocker would instantly become the number one pitching prospect in the system. The Royals simply don’t have any starting pitching prospects that can match the electric arsenal of Rocker. In my opinion, this is the type of young pitching prospects that the Royals have neglected for years. Rocker isn’t just a chucker on the mound. He has a great feel for his fastball, and the pitch allows him to locate his spots well. Rocker uses his big frame and powerful lower half to throw his fastball anywhere from 92-96 mph, while also reaching back and touching 98 mph with relative ease.
Fastball- Rocker’s 92-96 MPH fastball shows good hard sinking action. While watching video of Rocker it is easy to see how the fastball jumps out of his hand. Even when he’s only throwing 92 MPH the fastball gets in on the hitter quick. His lower half creates a ton of power on his fastball and is a plus plus pitch.
Changeup- Rockers changeup works from 87-90 with good sink into right handed batters. The thing that stood out to me on film was his ability to hide the changeup. There is no noticeable difference in his arm motion between the fastball and changeup. When a ball jumps at you as fast as his fastball does, this pitch is a plus when he is commanding it.
Slider- Rockers slider sits in the mid 80’s. It’s tough for me to determine if Rocker’s best off speed pitch is either the changeup or slider, but regardless the slider gets good bite and paired with the other pitches, offers a great punch out pitch.
Rockers ability to go anywhere from his 98 MPH fastball to his 85 MPH slider makes him one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the draft. Rocker throws with an effortless delivery, and when he runs into problems on the mound he is athletic enough to make adjustments.
Here is a pitch sequence against potential first round pick Nolan Gorman in the Prefect Game All-American Classic. This is an example of how difficult Rocker can make it on hitters. Gorman who is one of the best high school hitters in this draft class completely froze on the 85 MPH slider. From pitch 4 to 5 it was a 13 MPH difference and then add in movement. Its difficult for any hitter to try and react when they just saw three fastballs all at 96 or higher.
Pitch 1- 90 MPH Changeup- Ball
Pitch 2- 96 MPH Fastball- Strike, Swinging
Pitch 3- 97 MPH Fastball- Strike, Foul Ball
Pitch 4- 98 MPH Fastball- Foul Ball
Pitch 5- 85 MPH Slider- Strike out looking
The biggest concern when it comes to Rocker is his obvious size. Being a 250 pound high schooler will come with some questions. Scouts wonder if Rocker will be able to stay healthy and in shape. To me, that is a big what if. Looking at the family bloodline and the athleticism that Rocker posses makes it a less of a concern. This question mark surrounding Rocker could be a positive. In the case of most high schooler, teams spend the first year or so trying to add to a pitchers frame. With Rocker, Major League teams can focus on the pitching aspect right now and monitor his conditioning program if it were to become a problem.
The Vanderbilt commit, could possibly be a tough sign for clubs that want him. His dad, the former NFL football player, now assistant football coach at the University of Tennessee, lets him know the importance of preparing for the future. Pairing that with the opportunity to pitch for Vanderbilt makes not signing an intriguing offer. Even at the high school level, Rocker flashes an arsenal that most major league pitchers would die for. For a team like the Royals, they are in a position to spend big time money to lure a kid like Rocker away from Vanderbilt. Anytime a high school player is selected in the first it is hard to pass up the big offer that comes with it. Going to college could potentially ruin a kids draft stock the next time around, so baring a big drop down the boards the reward could be to big to pass up for the highly touted prospect.
I think I can speak for many Royals fans that adding Rocker to the farm system would be the glimmer of hope that we have all been waiting for. A true workhorse that has the arsenal and the frame to play the part of a frontline starter. Right now the projections for Rocker are all over the place. He could be in play before the Royals pick or he could fall to the end of the first.
Photo Credits: Matthew Caldwell