Scouts just added Troy, New York, to their travel itineraries.
That’s the new home of 2021 first-round pick Kumar Rocker. It was announced on Friday that Rocker, who was the No. 10 overall pick in last year’s Draft, has agreed to sign with the Tri-City ValleyCats in the independent Frontier League, a partner league with Major League Baseball.
Rocker is expected to join Tri-City later this month and will pitch for the ValleyCats until the Draft, which is set to begin on Sunday, July 17 in Los Angeles as part of All-Star Game festivities. The plan is for the 22-year-old right-hander to pitch approximately a half dozen times.
Rocker starred at Vanderbilt University, compiling a 28-10 record and 2.89 ERA from 2019-21, finishing with a 12.2 K/9 rate and 2.6 BB/9. He entered last spring as a potential front-runner to be the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft and ended up going No. 10 overall to the Mets.
There were initial reports that Rocker and the Mets had agreed to an over-slot bonus of $6 million, pending a physical. After that exam, the Mets had concerns about Rocker’s shoulder and elbow, creating an impasse that could not be resolved.
The Mets ended up walking away from the negotiating table, offering no bonus to Rocker. Where Rocker would pitch this spring has been a hot topic of conversation. He opted not to return to Vanderbilt for his senior season, so the independent ball route seemed the most logical conclusion. Rocker, No. 31 on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Top 150 list, will have a little more than a month to show scouts that he’s healthy and the stuff that made him a potential No. 1 pick a year ago is still intact.
“It will be a good opportunity for him to go out and prove what his Draft status is and put him in position to be selected,” one scouting executive said. “He obviously had to go out and do it to be evaluated so teams could consider him this year.”