Rangers laud Rocker's talent, work ethic as first-rounder introduced

August 5th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward sees something in first-round pick Kumar Rocker that he’s only seen in the best.

Rocker, who was selected by the Rangers third overall in this year’s Draft, arrived in Arlington earlier this week and was already locked in. He wasn’t "wide-eyed," Woodward said, but "comfortable and focused."

“The best ones I’ve ever been around have that kind of commitment to what they’re doing,” Woodward said. “[He doesn’t] get distracted easily and that was pretty apparent … this is important to him.”

Rocker displayed that same focus when he was formally introduced at Globe Life Field on Thursday before the Rangers’ 3-2 win against the White Sox.

“What separates Kumar beyond the talent are the intangibles and the winning, competitive spirit he brings every day,” Rangers GM Chris Young said. “We’re thrilled not only about the talent that Kumar has and what we think he’ll become as a pitcher, but the impact he’s going to make on our organization through his intangibles.”

Rocker's selection as the third overall pick was somewhat of a shock. The former Vanderbilt superstar was selected 10th overall by the Mets last year, but didn't sign after New York's review of his medical information raised concerns about his shoulder and elbow.

In the month following the Draft, he opted not to return to Vanderbilt for his senior season, and instead turned his focus toward 2022. Rocker underwent shoulder surgery in September 2021, then signed with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the independent Frontier League in May, where he made five appearances and compiled a 1-0 record with a 1.35 ERA and 32 strikeouts just before the Draft.

Now that the Rangers have reunited Vanderbilt’s former 1-2 punch in Rocker and their No. 1 prospect, right-hander Jack Leiter, maybe you can say everything happens for a reason. A year ago, director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg thought it would be impossible to land the two in the Rangers’ system. But, here they are.

Rocker will remain in Arlington for a few days before joining his Draft class in Arizona. From there, he’s expected to make his organizational debut in the fall instructional league.

“I'm really excited. Getting to this process, it's a starting line,” Rocker said. “So, kind of, pitching out there and being free a little bit, being yourself, it's a great step in the right direction.”

Rocker wasn’t the only Rangers' first-rounder making news on Thursday. While the righty was watching the game from a suite, two fellow first-rounders made their MLB debuts: LHP Cole Ragans (2016 first-round pick) and OF Bubba Thompson (2017).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time two first-rounders made their debut with the team that drafted them on the same day was Aug. 5, 2012 (Chicago Cubs' Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters).

The pair helped the Rangers break a three-game skid. Ragans, the club's No. 29 prospect, was impressive going five innings, allowing just one unearned run.

“Just to know that both of us are going through the same thing, the same kind of nerves today, it [was] a little more relaxing knowing I [wasn’t] the only one out there," he said of himself and Thompson. "I also have a friend that’s going through the same exact thing."

Thompson, the Rangers' No. 27 prospect, recorded his first career hit with a bunt single in the seventh inning.