Rocker's elbow an issue for Mets (sources)

July 27th, 2021

NEW YORK -- The Mets are at risk of not signing their top Draft pick after Kumar Rocker’s physical showed an elbow issue, according to multiple sources briefed on the situation.

The Mets have not confirmed any details of Rocker's physical.

Rocker, the No. 10 overall pick in the Draft earlier this month, traveled to New York for his routine physical last week. Testing revealed an issue with Rocker’s elbow, though it remains to be seen if that will be enough to nix a deal. Rocker and the Mets had already agreed to terms on a $6 million pact, which was pending a clean physical.

Now, the Mets have three choices. They can either sign Rocker for $6 million anyway, try to renegotiate a lesser deal with Rocker and his representative, Scott Boras, or forfeit the selection and receive a compensatory pick next year at No. 11 overall.

Mets general manager Zack Scott declined comment when asked about Rocker earlier this week. Boras also did not respond to a message regarding Rocker.

A star pitcher at Vanderbilt who was once considered a potential top overall pick in the Draft, Rocker dropped to No. 10 after he began experiencing velocity issues late in his college career. The right-hander dipped from the upper into the low 90s during several starts, according to multiple published accounts, though he did regain some of that velocity late in the season.

Overall in three seasons at Vanderbilt, Rocker went 28-10 with a 2.89 ERA in 39 starts and three relief appearances.

“We were aware of it, the velocity decrease in the middle of the year,” Mets vice president of amateur scouting Tommy Tanous said during Draft week. “I would say almost all of D1 pitchers had a velocity decrease because this is the first time they had been extended. It’s just he’s such a highly visible pick and pitcher who’s consistently throwing between 96 and 100. When he does throw 92-94, it’s looked at.”

Tanous also pointed to Rocker’s heavy usage as a reason for the velocity drop.

“His pitch counts were reasonable, but they were high,” Tanous said. “I think he hit a little bit of a lull in the middle of the season, and we saw him tick up later in the year. So you take any of these pitchers, especially after a COVID year, and their velocities were a little more of a roller coaster [than] in years past. But we were well aware of it, and in some ways, hopefully this is a reason why we were lucky enough to land him.”

The situation is similar to what the Astros experienced eight years ago with Brady Aiken, the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft in 2014. A post-Draft physical revealed a UCL issue for Aiken, which led the Astros to drop their offer and Aiken to reject it. He re-entered the Draft the following year and went No. 17 to the Indians, but Aiken has yet to advance beyond Class A ball.