Right-handed pitcher Kumar Rocker has stayed off the radar since last summer, when medical concerns caused the New York Mets to shy away from signing him. Rocker, who was selected 10th overall, subsequently announced he would not return to Vanderbilt, leaving him without an affiliation heading into the spring.
Rocker’s decision to depart the school hasn’t seen him cease all communication with former coach Tim Corbin, however, and earlier this week that proved to be a blessing to those wondering what Rocker was up to. Per Corbin, his former ace is working out with an eye on potentially appearing in an independent league later this summer.
“Based on my conversations with him, (Rocker) could be playing a little bit of baseball this year but it would be in an independent league but I’m still not sure about that,” Corbin said on Wednesday to reporters, including Aria Gerson of the Nashville Tennessean. “Those are the things that he’s doing with his advisement. But he’s doing well, he looks great, he looks as great as he’s ever looked in my opinion over the last four years, he’s working out very well and he’s very much on course to be very healthy and be pitching at some point. … Unfortunate situation, but he’s made the best of it.”
That Rocker and advisor Scott Boras are weighing the independent-league route should not come as a surprise. When CBS Sports broke down what was next for Rocker last August, we surmised that him signing with an indy team was “the most straightforward option” as well as “the one that has the most historical precedents,” including Luke Hochevar and James Paxton, both of whom were Boras clients. To wit:
Rocker’s situation isn’t directly comparable to either Hochevar’s or Paxton’s because of the medical angle and because of how the landscape has changed with slotting. Still, Rocker making a handful of appearances with the Milwaukee Milkmen or the Kansas City Monarchs before trying his hand again in the draft would seem to be the likeliest outcome.
Rocker will be among CBS Sports’ top-50 draft prospects for the upcoming class when that list is published in February. Scouts have already noted to CBS Sports that Rocker is in a catch-22 situation: he has nothing to prove at a lower level, including independent ball, yet teams will wonder if he’s hiding a physical ailment if he doesn’t pitch at all, or pitches just once ahead of the draft.
Rocker and his camp have to decide, then, how much is too much and how little is too little when it comes to keeping him in the top half of the first round.