The New York Mets have seen their fortunes turn around from a losing season in 2020, jumping out to a first-place start in the National League East a little more than halfway through the year.
Now, the Mets are making headlines for another reason entirely: their selection of one of the most talented Major League Baseball prospects to come along in years, with the 10th overall pick in the draft on Sunday.
The Mets landed a player formerly projected to go number one overall: Kumar Rocker, a flamethrowing right-hander and son of former Auburn football legend Tracy Rocker, now an assistant coach with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
Rocker’s selection has Mets fans feeling elated, and baseball pundits everywhere scratching their heads as to how he fell so far in the draft.
Rocker throws in the mid-to-upper 90s, with the physique of a big-time linebacker and a mound presence that is virtually unrivaled at this point in his career.
His 19-strikeout, no-hit performance for the Vanderbilt Commodores in the 2019 NCAA Super Regionals is already the stuff of legends.
Rocker got his athletic chops in large part from his father, who won the Lombardi Award for best college player and Outland Trophy for best interior lineman in 1988 for the Auburn Tigers, becoming the first SEC player to accomplish that feat.
Only 74 days until SEC football returns!
Tracy Rocker was a bad dude! In 1988 he won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. He was a Consensus All-American in ‘88 and later was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004. #SECcountdown #WarEagle pic.twitter.com/vDoWV97F6o
— that SEC podcast (@thatSECpodcast) June 11, 2019
He was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana.
Meanwhile, his son now has a golden opportunity in front of him with the Mets.
After three years of total domination at Vanderbilt, he now heads to a team that already has three top shelf pitching talents in its starting rotation in Marcus Stroman (2.75 ERA), Jacob DeGrom (1.08 ERA, 146K/11BB ratio), and Taijuan Walker (2.50 ERA).
Rocker should have the luxury of working his way up to the majors slowly if need be, harnessing the talent and persona that could quickly make him a transcendent new baseball star with the Mets.
“This is a supremely talented player,” said Mets Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Tramuta to Yahoo! Sports.
“We’re still so elated here, so happy that Kumar got to us,” added Mets Vice President of Amateur and International Scouting Tommy Tanous during a news conference.
“We really thought there was very little chance that this would happen.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 12, 2021
The Mets seem to know they got themselves a steal, however, and are paying Rocker handsomely to the tune of a$6,000,000 signing bonus.
“A pitcher of this talent and this portfolio doesn’t happen very often. We were thrilled,” Tanous said.