For two years, Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker were the dynamic duo of college baseball. They were the two aces of the best college baseball team in the country, Vanderbilt.
They were two of the most coveted players in last year’s draft, expected to go in the top five. They would make two teams very happy.
Many draft experts had Jack Leiter going first. The Pirates took catcher Henry Davis first. The Rangers had to decide which of these two top pitchers to take next, Leiter or Rocker. Either one would have been the right one to take at number two. Either one, actually, would have been the right one to take at number one. Yes, there was some concern about Rocker’s velocity being down his last few games but they were still the two biggest pitching prizes of the draft.
Texas chose Leiter. Rocker would go with the tenth pick to the Mets. But they chose not to sign him, worried about some “medicals” not disclosed previously.
So, the Rangers chose Rocker. This year.
In three seasons at Vanderbilt, Rocker was 28-10 with a 2.89 ERA. Leiter was 13-4 with a 2.05 ERA.
And, just like that, the top two pitchers in last year’s draft are now in the Rangers system. It’s like the Rangers got two early round picks in a row in last year’s draft.
The twenty-two-year-old right-handed Rocker is a beast at 245-pounds and 6-foot, five-inches tall.
Rocker and Leiter. Leiter and Rocker. The Rangers got the two best college pitchers in the draft. They just got them one year apart.
Reports are Rangers GM Chris Young would have taken Jackson Holliday had he been available. But he was the first player selected. His second choice all along was Rocker.
For a team that has a history of pitching ineptitude, this is an amazing development. And it’s a good day for the franchise.