Inbox: Where does Kumar Rocker stand now?

August 5th, 2021

After surviving having the Futures Game and the Draft at the same time, everything else might seem like a breeze. Having the Trade Deadline and Draft signing deadline the same weekend, however, was no joke, though kudos to the MLB Pipeline crew for pushing through it amazingly well. The back-end folks don’t get the credit they deserve, but trust me when I tell you that they constantly make us look good with how quickly they’re able to make updates and changes, especially important with the Trade Deadline frenzy.

This week’s Inbox is all about Deadline-apalooza, focusing more on the Draft, though there obviously was plenty of interest in traded prospects on the Twitter over the last several days.

Excluding Adley… where would you rank Henry Davis amongst other catching prospects? -- @ballsandgutters

We dug into this one in this week’s Pipeline Podcast, in our weekly Mailbag segment. First, I love that top catching prospect Adley Rutschman goes by one name only now. My first instinct was to put Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 Draft, at No. 3, behind Adley and Joey Bart, who are currently No. 1 and 2 on that Top 10 catching prospects list. Then Jim Callis rightfully pointed out that we’re going to re-rank all the lists (coming the week of Aug. 16!), and that we should re-think that. What he came up with, and I agreed, was something like this:

1. Adley
2. Francisco Álvarez
3. Bart
4. Davis
5. Tyler Soderstrom

Davis, Soderstrom and Luis Campusano have similar skillsets, so you could probably list them 4-6 in any order. Davis, for his part, doubled and homered in his first game in the Florida Complex League, putting the pressure on early.

With Kumar Rocker not getting signed by the Mets and reentering next year's MLB Draft, where would you rank him among [Draft] prospects heading into next year's [Draft]? -- @StevieDAles97

Where does Kumar Rocker slot in as of today with next year's [Draft] class rankings? -- @CaoChadTTV

I know it’s hard to believe, but there were A LOT of Kumar Rocker-related questions. Many of them asked about any inside info on his potential injuries (I have none), but I instead chose to focus on this line of questioning: Where will Rocker fit into the Class of 2022 now that he hasn’t signed.

The big caveats, of course, are those health-related questions and how even a perceived injury risk can impact a player’s stock. We also don’t know at this point where Rocker is going to be pitching in the spring, and how he goes out and throws, whether it’s back at Vanderbilt or for an indy ball team, will also matter. With all that said, I’ll take a stab at it.

Looking back at the way-too-early top 20 pick mock draft I did shortly after the completion of this year’s Draft, you’ll notice a dearth of college arms. That obviously can and will change between now and next summer, but the fact that there’s only one college pitcher, Florida’s Hunter Barco, in that top 20, does help Rocker. Assuming he's healthy and performs like he has at his best, Rocker's better than Barco, who I had put at 16. Rocker will be a year older, at age 22, which might turn some teams off, but based on pure talent, he’d be back in the top 10 in next year’s class, I think, though all that uncertainty does make it extremely hard to project.

Rays spent 83% of their budget on hitters, and just 17% on pitchers. Was this a more hitting talented [Draft] overall at the top? -- @Mat_Germain_

There is no question that the Rays were all-in on the bats in 2021. I don’t think that necessarily means the class overall was more hitter-heavy, just that the Rays’ philosophy was to take the best hitter available more often than not. And it was hit tool above just about anything else for many of their selections on Day 1 and 2.

Cooper Kinney (Competitive Balance Round A) and Kyle Manzardo (Round 2) both got 55 grades for their hit tool in our reports, but there were teams -- the Rays among them -- who felt they might be 60 bats on the 20-to-80 scouting scale when all is said and done. Fourth-rounder Dru Baker is another 55 hitter. And while Carson Williams, their first-round pick, was a 50, there’s upside there to believe he’ll be better. Williams can really defend, but Kinney, Manzardo and Baker are the types whose bats will be what gets them to the big leagues.

Now, could the Rays have examined this Draft class and determined that’s where the strength was? It certainly is possible. A quick look at the last three Drafts before this one shows that in the top 10 rounds, the Rays spent around 69 percent (2020), 62 percent (2019) and 63 percent (2018) on pitching. I’m not suggesting that the Rays arbitrarily decided to offset the pitching-heavy Drafts with a hitting-heavy one. I’m pointing out the last three years to suggest that while it might have been the Rays' philosophy in 2021 to home in on bats, it’s not necessarily something that they always do, but was catered to the way they felt the Draft class looked and how it unfolded.

Between the Cubs & the Nationals, which team is the winner in farm system power ranking with all their new top prospects? -- @CedLikan

The Nationals and Cubs ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in my recent story looking at the best Trade Deadline prospect hauls, with the Twins coming between the two. Combined, the two clubs added 16 new members of their respective Top 30s, 10 by the Nats and six by the Cubs. Washington gets the edge because it added two Top 100 prospects with its deals, though it also gave up more, given Trea Turner has another year of control left, while the other big leaguers are all two-month rentals who will be free agents at the end of the season.

How that will impact the farm system rankings will be something we’ll look at closely and we’ll have a new 1-30 list when we re-rank all the team lists and the Top 100 in a couple of weeks. Before the season began, the Cubs were No. 22 and the Nationals came in at No. 30, so both were bottom-third farm systems. The trades will obviously help as we look at both elite-level talent and depth, but I don’t know if either will make that huge of a leap. Without doing a deep dive, I could potentially see both jumping into the 11-20 range, more likely at the back end of that second-third of teams.