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Texas Rangers select Kumar Rocker in MLB draft, downplay injury

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The Texas Rangers pulled the surprise of the 2022 MLB Draft by selecting former Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker with the third overall pick.

AP

The Texas Rangers just used the third overall pick in the MLB draft on a pitcher who is 22, and coming off a surgery so insignificant no one wants to discuss it.

Credit part-time Texas Rangers employee Scott Boras for making this dream possible.

Once again the most powerful agent in any sport set his demonic hooks in the Rangers.

On Sunday night, the Rangers made the MLB Draft interesting when they selected former Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker with the third overall pick.

This selection was as expected as the sun rising in the north.

It’s the second consecutive year the club had a top three pick; the team picked Rocker’s college teammate, pitcher Jack Leiter, with the second overall selection last season.

Drafting Rocker is the most exciting, dumb, intriguing, mysterious, risky pick by any franchise in this MLB Draft.

Selecting Rocker isn’t settling for a home run. Selecting Rocker is swinging for multiple grand slams on one pitch.

Rocker will either be an All-Star starting pitcher in Arlington, or he is an arm blowout waiting to happen.

“No, I didn’t see it coming,” Rocker said to a handful of us on a Zoom call not long after he was selected. “I know I had a lot of interest from the Rangers last year.”

The New York Mets selected Rocker with the 10th pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.

However, during the negotiation process with Boras, the Mets saw something during the physical evaluation of Rocker’s right elbow.

The contract talks between the two sides crashed, and Rocker never went to the Mets.

“All the people who are upset with the Mets for not signing Kumar Rocker are kind of missing the boat. Boras required $6 million for an injured player. Boras would not let his player get a pre-draft physical, which most other players get,” former Miami Marlins team president David Samson said on The Dan Le Batard Show in August last year.

Samson was the Marlins president from 2002 to 2017.

“But Boras hates that rule because he has his own stable of doctors,” Samson said. “He wants owners to believe them. (Mets owner) Steve Cohen stood up to Boras and said, ‘No, we’re not doing it.’ Good for him.”

Rather than return to Vanderbilt for his senior season, Rocker had surgery on his right shoulder last September. It was described as a “minor scope.”

Bet all of your money the man floating that injury description is none other than Dr. Scott Boras.

The Rangers aren’t saying what the injury was, other than it does not appear to be a Tommy John type.

“I can’t really talk about it, bro,’” Rocker said Sunday evening on the Zoom call.

I asked him why he can’t just say what the injury is.

“I think Scott has cleared the air, that’s all there is to it. It’s a blunt scenario,” Rocker respectfully said. “We put everything out there.”

Rangers GM Chris Young acknowledged Sunday night the risk with Rocker is “medical.”

Both Young and Rangers director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg went out of their way Sunday night to say that they felt good about Rocker’s health.

Also, “I don’t want to get into the semantics of what it was,” Young said.

If this was 63rd pick in the draft, such verbal maneuvers are fine.

If it was the 33rd pick in the draft, it’s OK, too.

This was the third overall pick. And because the Rangers signed free agents Corey Seager and Marcus Semien in the offseason they do not have picks in the second or third rounds.

Rocker started four games this season for the unaffiliated Tri-City Valley Cats in the Frontier League. He had 32 strikeouts in 20 innings primarily to prove to interested MLB teams that he was healthy, and worthy of a first-round pick.

The only team that was going to select Rocker in the first 10 picks was the Rangers.

Between Boras’ considerable sales skills, and the Rangers medical team evaluating Rocker, the club had the information they wanted to justify the selection.

“Extremely comfortable with the medical review our team has done,” Young said.

They always are.

As is the case so often in these situations, the Rangers saw what they wanted to see.

They just see enormous talent, because it’s there.

Rocker is the son of former NFL defensive tackle Tracy Rocker, who is currently an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Rocker threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter in 2019 for Vanderbilt in an NCAA Super Regionals. He can throw the ball consistently in the upper 90s.

He is the modern era power strikeout pitcher.

The Rangers see Rocker teaming with his former college teammate, Leiter, in Arlington to form a dominant 1-2. The last time the Rangers had starting pitchers this talented in their system was Bobby Witt and Kevin Brown, in the late ‘80s.

It’s 2022, and the Texas Rangers have invested the second, and third, overall draft picks on Vanderbilt pitchers.

The first, Leiter, is a safe, sound choice.

The second is an enormous risk, and a product of Scott Boras doing what Scott Boras does: Sell his clients to the Texas Rangers.

This story was originally published July 17, 2022 8:39 PM.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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