News broke late yesterday afternoon that Texas Ranger prospect, Kumar Rocker would require Tommy John surgery later this week. It is always tough to hear that a young prospect is going to be out for such a long time, but it hits a little harder when the team selected the player third overall in last season's draft. On a day that fans should have been celebrating Rocker breaking into the MLB top 100 prospect list, we instead are left with a gut punch and a reset of the clock for his potential arrival in Arlington.
It is well documented that Rocker was first drafted by the New York Mets with the 10th overall selection in the 2021 draft class. After being selected, he was not able to get a contract signed due to shoulder issues that concerned the Mets. It was a shocking turn of events that left many scratching their heads. But later that fall, Rocker would indeed go under the knife and have some damage in the shoulder cleaned up.
Texas Rangers' 2022 first round draft pick, Kumar Rocker, to undergo Tommy John surgery
After rehabbing that fall and winter, and in preparation of the 2022 draft, Rocker pitched for the Tri-City Valley Cats of the Frontier League in order to show that he was back to form and healthy. He pitched great and was deemed recovered. The Rangers drafted Rocker and sent him to the Arizona Fall League. He struggled early, but then settled in nicely and pitched well.
A strong spring and a fantastic start to the regular season at High-A Hickory, showed the return to dominance that the big righty demonstrated at Vanderbilt. In six starts and 28 innings this season, Rocker had amassed 42 strikeouts, seven walks, a 3.86 ERA, and a 1.000 WHIP. His ERA numbers are elevated in large part to the five earned runs that he gave up in the last inning that he pitched when the injury took place. Rocker was looking at a promotion to Double-A Frisco very soon.
There have been strong reactions from Met's fans saying, "I told you so". There have also been Ranger fans wondering why we even took him in the draft last year. The reality is, that Rocker was healthy when the Ranger's drafted him and had pitched well, up until the injury occurred in his last start. It is impossible to predict when the elbow is going to go, and anyone that thinks that they can, is fooling themselves. Rocker is a competitor and barring any further setbacks still stands to have a very bright future for the Rangers. The timeline has been pushed out, but don't give up on Rocker because he isn't going anywhere.
Chris Young sad for Kumar Rocker, but still optimistic about his future with the Texas Rangers
GM Chris Young has been preaching that the Rangers have to have pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Why is that? Because of stuff just like this. Pitchers are getting hurt at an alarming pace these days as they are asked for increased velocity, increased spin rates, and just overall nastiness in their pitches. They are pushing the human arm to the limit and sometimes, many times, it is not holding up to the task. Injuries in baseball happen, and injuries to pitchers happen more frequently than any of us would like to admit. I have said it before and I will say it again, that pitching at a high level is kind of like bull riding in that it isn't if you will get hurt, but when and how badly.
My parents took me to the old Yankee Stadium when I was 10 years old. The pitcher for the Yankees that night was Tommy John. Watching a pitcher that, at the time, was 45 years old and 14 years removed from his revolutionary surgery, I could never have imagined how many times I would hear and say his name over the course of my lifetime. I am thankful that the surgery exists and that it carries such a high success rate, but I dearly wish it wasn't as necessary.
Kumar Rocker is going to have surgery this week and then start the long, arduous rehabilitation process. There will be little news about him during this time, but if all goes well, someday in the middle of next season, hopefully we are able to look up and see Rocker back on a mound.