NEW YORK – One of the most anticipated Mets draft picks in years is not going to join the organization. Following a review of Kumar Rocker’s medical information, the club missed Sunday’s deadline without signing its first-round draft professional contract.
Multiple sources said the Mets were unaware of Rocker’s arm problems until he traveled to New York in mid-July to do his physical exam based on the draft. Though the two sides could have negotiated a smaller deal than the $ 6 million pact they agreed around draft time, Mets officials were so concerned about Rocker’s medicine that they didn’t even make him an offer, according to a source as they preferred the No. 11 pick held in next year’s draft.
That pick will be their compensation for failing to sign rockers, a Vanderbilt star whose stocks fell as his speed plummeted during his junior season. Although Rocker’s radar gun readings rose again by the end of spring, he was unable to recapture the heat of the upper 90s that originally made him a possible # 1 overall.
“This is clearly not the result we were hoping for and only wish Kumar success for the future,” said Mets managing director Zack Scott in a statement. “We are delighted with the players we have signed and look forward to developing them and contributing to the organization in the years to come.”
Rocker could have avoided the situation by agreeing to an MLB-sponsored program that shares the medical information of the best draft pitchers, but he risked suddenly falling onto draft boards if his MRIs had significant elbow or shoulder problems . Because of this, sources said Rocker failed to attend, which allowed the Mets to decline his signature without making an offer. Under MLB rules, they should have offered him a deal worth at least 40% of his slot value of $ 4.74 million if he had participated in the program. But they might not have drafted him at all if he had, based on his medical findings.
It turned out to be a complicated situation that the Mets got out of before the 5pm Sunday deadline. Put simply, team officials believed Rocker’s injury problems were serious enough to value a future election more highly than him – it wasn’t just about a player needing surgery from Tommy John, as Mets second-round player JT Ginn did in 2020. (The Mets picked Ginn despite this injury, and he’s now their fifth-placed candidate.)
It’s the same path the Astros took after refusing to sign Brady Aiken as # 1 overall in 2014. A year later they chose Alex Bregman with their compensatory pick in second place overall. Similarly, the Pirates took Austin Meadows with their compensatory choice after refusing to sign first round player Mark Appel in the 2012 draft. Toronto’s decision not to sign Tyler Beede in the 2011 draft resulted in Marcus Stroman finishing 22nd overall a year later.
The prospect of doing something similar next year excites team officials more than the idea of hoping Rocker can overcome his medical problems.
As for rockers, he can participate in the draft again next year. A source shared MLB.com’s Jon Morosi that Rocker has no plans to return to Vanderbilt. Signing to a professional league outside of the US is an option being considered, but under current rules, he would have to go through the 2022 draft to enter Major League Baseball.
In his three seasons at Vanderbilt, Rocker reached 28-10 with an ERA of 2.89 in 39 starts and three relief appearances, including a 19 strikeout no-hitter in the 2019 NCAA Super Regional against Duke. In a statement, Rocker’s advisor Scott Boras claimed that Rocker “is healthy according to independent medical reviews by several prominent orthopedic baseball surgeons,” who found no significant difference between the MRIs done in 2018 and ’21.
“Kumar does not require medical care,” continued Boras, “and will continue to take the regular course as he prepares for the beginning of his professional career.”