Return of Rangers top prospect gives fans hope after failed pitching developments

Spring Training
Spring Training / Bailey Orr/Texas Rangers/GettyImages

Last Friday, one of the Rangers top ranked pitching prospects and former No. 3 overall pick Kumar Rocker began a rehab assignment for the ACL Rangers. What a journey it's been.

Rocker gave up one run in his first rehab start via a home run to the leadoff hitter. After that, he only allowed one more hit over the next two innings while striking out three batters. He finished up two innings of work on just 15 pitches. Rocker also already touched 99 MPH with his fastball in just his first rehab start.

It was Rocker's first appearance since May 11 of last season. That was Rocker's last start of the 2023 for the High-A Hickory Crawdads before he was eventually shut down and underwent Tommy John surgery. Health has been the largest obstacle to Rocker's young career so far.

His Tommy John surgery last year came after Rocker famously was not offered a deal by the Mets after being selected 10th overall in the 2021 MLB Daft. The reasoning for this were concerns the Mets had regarding the health of Rocker's shoulder — the same one he ended up requiring surgery for.

But now, two surgeries later, Rangers fans have another young and seemingly healthy top prospect pitcher to get excited about. This was much-needed for the Rangers and their fans as 2024 has not brought much hope for the organization's pitching prospects.

Jack Leiter had three historically bad starts when called up to the big club due to injuries this season and is well behind where most hoped the former No. 2 overall pick would be three years after being drafted. Owen White has been similarly bad in his major league appearances, while his minor league ERA has also only increased each year. Brock Porter has also struggled since moving to High-A.

Jose Corniell had a resurgent 2023 and gave the organization a lot of hope for his future, but will now have to undergo UCL reconstructive surgery himself. He never threw a pitch in the 2024 season, which is yet another gut punch to the Rangers pitching development. That leaves Emiliano Teodo as the lone bright spot for the Rangers development of top pitching prospects this season. Teodo has been completely dominant at Double-A Frisco this season with a 1.71 ERA and 89 strikeouts through 68.1 innings pitched

Fans are hoping Rocker joins Teodo as another pitching development success story soon, and the organization needs him to. With Leiter and White trending toward reliever ceilings, Porter still being pretty young, and Corniell out until 2025, the Rangers need more than one hope for a homegrown starter in the near future.

This is mainly because the current Rangers rotation is aging and expensive, which has led to many injuries and money trouble. It is not a rotation that will help the Rangers in the long term. Adding some cheap, homegrown starters like Teodo and Rocker in the next year or two would go a long way to help the Rangers maximize their competitive window. It would allow them financial flexibility to fill vacancies and make the rotation much less injury prone as a byproduct of being younger (or at least fans hope).