Texas Rangers pitching prospect Kumar Rocker will have Tommy John surgery later this week, the team announced Tuesday. Rocker, the No. 3 pick in the 2022 draft, did not sign with the New York Mets as the No. 10 pick in the 2021 draft because the team walked away after it saw something it did not like in his physical.
Rangers GM Chris Young told reporters, including the Dallas Morning News, that Rocker suffered an "acute" injury, meaning his elbow ligament tore on a specific pitch. The injury was not related to anything Texas had seen in his previous medical exams. Rocker's last start was Thursday.
Rocker was a surprise selection with the No. 3 pick last year -- it was not a certainty he would even be picked in the first round -- and the Rangers paid him a $5.2 million bonus. Slot value for the No. 3 pick was a touch under $7.6 million. Texas used the savings to sign other touted prospects later in the draft. Rocker originally agreed to a $6 million deal with the Mets before it fell through.
. Here's his reasoning:
We've noted before that some evaluators have been lower on Rocker than you'd expect given [his pedigree]. The reasons for that hinge on his limited arsenal (his changeup lags behind his fastball and slider), and the potential command and durability issues that may arise from his delivery. It's notable that Rocker showed off new mechanics during his six appearances in the Arizona Fall League. Alas, the results weren't great, as he issued 12 walks in 14 innings. Maybe Rocker will fare better after a winter of repetition. For the time being, we couldn't justify placing him in the top 50.
Rocker was considered one of the top prospects in the 2018 draft out of his Georgia high school, though he slipped all the way to the 38th round (Colorado Rockies) because he was strongly committed to Vanderbilt. He had a 2.89 ERA with 321 strikeouts in 236 1/3 innings with the Commodores, including a June 2019 . It is arguably the greatest college pitching performance ever.
After his deal with the Mets fell apart in 2021, Rocker spent last spring with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the independent Frontier League. He was outstanding in limited action (1.35 ERA with 32 strikeouts and four walks in 20 innings), which was apparently enough to convince the Rangers to select him with the No. 3 pick last summer.
These days, Tommy John surgery typically comes with a 14-18 month rehab and teams tend to be on the conservative side with their top pitching prospects. It is likely Rocker will be sidelined until the second half of next season, meaning his first full professional season will not come until 2025 at the earliest. That will be his age 25 season.
In six Single-A starts this season, Rocker had a 3.86 ERA with 42 strikeouts and seven walks in six starts and 28 innings.