Rocker, Leiter impress in 2021 debuts

February 23rd, 2021

Most college programs would be happy to have either Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter in their rotation -- Vanderbilt has both.

Rocker and Leiter rank No. 1 and No. 6 on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Top 100 and showed exactly why they are so coveted as Vanderbilt began its season with a doubleheader sweep over Wright State on Monday.

The duo, each of which dominated their 2021 debuts, combined for 16 strikeouts over nine scoreless innings. And, just in case that wasn’t lights out enough, they each surrendered just one hit and only allowed two runners to get into scoring position.

Rocker, who led the way in a 14-1 victory in Game 1, struck out eight over four innings.

The 21-year-old struck out the side in the first and retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, reminding everyone why his name will fly off the Draft board early. Rocker did walk a pair to open the fifth, but Sam Hliboki came on in relief and escaped the jam.

Rocker typically overpowers hitters with his nasty fastball-slider combination, but he also showcased a cutter against the Raiders, giving hitters one more thing to worry about when facing one of the best arms in college baseball.

While having one ace is nice, having two is better and Leiter, 20, didn't disappoint. Rocker and Leiter will push each other through the season and Monday was just the beginning.

Leiter, like Rocker, struck out the side in the first and ultimately struck out seven of the first 10 batters he faced before finishing with eight strikeouts over five scoreless frames. He gave up one hit and also hit a batter.

The son of two-time All-Star Al Leiter, Jack typically works in the mid- to upper-90s, but did reach 100 a couple times on the television broadcast, though there are some reports that the stadium gun was running a bit hot.

In addition to the fastball, Leiter also throws a 12-to-6 curveball, a low-80s slider with plenty of upside and has an advanced feel for spin.

There’s a long way to go until the Draft, which will take place July 11-13 in Atlanta, and it remains to be seen whether Rocker or Leiter sees his name first, but this much is clear -- opposing hitters are in for a long season.