In the 2021 MLB Draft, the Washington Nationals were one draft pick away from being able to draft Kumar Rocker, however, the New York Mets drafted the right-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt and the Nationals went on to draft Brady Houseand then signed him for $5M. However, the New York Mets were unable to come to an agreement with Kumar Rocker and therefore he is now once again available for teams to draft and sign. The Nationals now hold the number five pick in this year’s MLB Amauter Draft so the question is should the Nationals draft Rocker?
As of now, MLB.com is projecting that the Nationals will draft OF Elijah Green from IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), however, with pitching now being a need for the Nationals things could change and it might be a good idea to draft another stud pitcher that could help the team in the long term, is Kumar Rocker a good fit?
As a freshman in 2019, Rocker threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter against Duke in the NCAA Super Regionals and earned two victories and Most Outstanding Player honors at the College World Series. In 2021, he helped the Commodores return to the CWS finals and topped NCAA Division I in wins (14) and strikeouts (179 in 122 innings, tying teammate Jack Leiter). However, one of the reasons why the Mets were unable to come to an agreement was because a reported post-Draft physical created concerns about Rocker’s shoulder and elbow. The Nationals do not need another pitcher with shoulder/elbow issues as they already have one of their top pitchers dealing with an issue in his shoulder etc.
Another concern that the Nationals should be aware of is that during the 2021 season, Rocker’s velocity greatly fluctuated. With a review of his stats, while at Vanderbilt during the 2021 season his fastball averaged 93 mph, sitting in the low 90s at times and touching 99 at others. Additionally, his heater features some run and sink but also flattens out on occasion. All 19 of his strikeouts against Duke came on his slider, a mid-80s wipeout pitch with power and depth when at its best, and he also employs a low-80s curveball with a more vertical break.
The Nationals might have caught a break and a chance to lock up a pitcher that could have an immediate impact on the Nationals roster or be another great addition to a growing list of pitching prospects.