Boston Red Sox

OMAHA, NEBRASKA - JUNE 30: Kumar Rocker #80 of the Vanderbilt pitches against Mississippi St. in the top of the first inning during game three of the College World Series Championship at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha on June 30, 2021 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • The Major League Baseball draft often comes and goes without much fanfare. Last year though, it received elevated attention locally with the Red Sox owning the fourth overall pick in what was considered an above-average class. Multiple names were floated as potential targets, and they ended up going with high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer.

    Less than a year later, Mayer is the 10th ranked prospect in all of baseball according to He’s played well to begin his minor league career, and while there’s still a ways to go early indications are the Red Sox made the right selection.  That being said, the Red Sox could now have a chance to double-dip this year, and grab one of the players they were linked to but passed on in 2021.

    Entering the 2021 college baseball season, Vanderbilt righty Kumar Rocker was the favorite to go first overall. Rocker had a standout freshman season in 2019, including the first ever no-hitter in a Super Regional round of the College World Series.

  • Rocker was then only able to make three starts in 2020, when the college baseball season was shuttered in mid-March due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. He bounced back strong in 2021, going 14-4 in 20 starts with a 2.73 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 122 innings.

    However, Rocker’s draft stock began to fall after the season as questions about the health of his arm arose. He ended up falling to 10th overall where he was taken by the New York Mets, but then didn’t sign after failing a post-draft physical.

    Instead of returning to Vanderbilt for his senior season, Rocker elected to go pro via the independent ball route. After reportedly undergoing shoulder surgery in June, Rocker joined the Tri-City Valley Cats of the Frontier League. He’s picked up where he left off, with a 1.35 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 20 innings in five starts.

    With his stock now on the rise again, Rocker’s name has re-emerged in MLB Draft talk (he is eligible to be selected again this year because he did not sign last season). While he’s no longer considered a top-of-the-draft prospect, new projections have him coming off the board in the back end of the first round.

    That includes the latest Mock from Keith Law of The Athletic. Law has Rocker going 24th overall – to the Red Sox.

    “This one has some legs, as the Red Sox were heavy on Rocker once he started pitching for Tri-City in June, with people at every start, and they were serious about him last year until Marcelo Mayer fell into their laps at pick No. 4,” Law says of the selection.

  • Even just a few years ago, such a pick would have seemed unrealistic for the Red Sox. Following the Dave Dombrowski era, the farm system was barren and the team needed high-floor players to help rebuild their organizational depth. They’ve now been through that process, with a system that features four top-100 prospects, while six of their own top 20 prospects (according to are projected starting pitchers who have either already debuted or project to do so within the next two years.

    With that internal development, the Red Sox have room to take a risk if they so choose. If they do, and he falls to them, the upside on selecting Rocker would be tremendous. His fastball sits in the high 90’s with a “plus-plus” slider that he uses to pile up strikeouts and an occasional changeup. He also plays the game with tremendous intensity.

    Once he is drafted, wherever he ends up, teams will likely want him to refine his changeup and/or develop a fourth pitch. On top of that, there are still lingering questions about his health and long term durability, and he’ll turn 23 in November which is relatively old for an MLB draft pick.

    If that all checks out, he could end up being a front end of the rotation starter on a contending team. Even if he doesn’t reach that ceiling, his stuff is good enough to feature in a back end of a bullpen or potentially even closer role.

    This year’s MLB Draft is set to take place during the weekend leading up to the All-Star Game, with the first two rounds set for July 17. The Red Sox currently own three picks in the first two rounds. In addition to their originally-scheduled 24th overall selection, they also have second pick in the second round (41st overall) after receiving a move up the board as compensation for failing to sign last year’s second-round pick Jud Fabian (who is back in the draft and projected to go in the second round again), as well as a second compensatory round selection (79th overall) which they were awarded for losing Eduardo Rodriguez in free agency this past spring.