ValleyCats introduce highly touted prospect Rocker for pre-draft stint with team

Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker throws against East Carolina during the first inning of an NCAA college baseball super regional game June 11 in Nashville, Tenn. Right-hander Kumar Rocker agreed earlier this month to a contract with the independent Tri-City ValleyCats after failing to sign with the New York Mets last summer.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker throws against East Carolina during the first inning of an NCAA college baseball super regional game June 11 in Nashville, Tenn. Right-hander Kumar Rocker agreed earlier this month to a contract with the independent Tri-City ValleyCats after failing to sign with the New York Mets last summer.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

TROY — Before he heads to The Show, Kumar Rocker is ready to put on a show for Tri-City ValleyCats fans at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.

Rocker, who went unsigned after being selected 10th overall by the New York Mets out of Vanderbilt in the 2021 MLB Draft, was formally introduced by the ValleyCats during a news conference on Saturday after the righthanded pitcher signed with the team in advance of this year’s MLB Draft on July 17.

“Man, I love it,” said Rocker, who will wear No. 32 with the ValleyCats. “I love to compete. I love the fans. I love putting on shows.”

Rocker spent his first night with the team Friday, and is expected to make his first start with the team on June 4 against the Trois-Rivieres Aigles.

“It’s an opportunity to play,” Rocker said. “I love playing the game, and whoever invited me, thank you for that.”

Rocker, a client of monolithic baseball agent Scott Boras, ended up with the ValleyCats due to Tri-City manager Pete Incaviglia’s long-time relationship with the agent and his associates. Incaviglia dealt with a similar situation in 2010 when, as the manager of the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the American Association, he coached current Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton in the lead-up to that year’s draft after Paxton had been ruled ineligible to return to the University of Kentucky for his senior season after signing with Boras’ agency.

“Geting a talent like Kumar, this is a once-in-a-lifetime talent,” Incaviglia said. “What he does for the organization is great. It brings a lot of attention to the ValleyCats, and that attention is going to help the other players.”

Rocker was the Most Outstanding Player at the 2019 College World Series as a freshman when Vanderbilt captured the NCAA title. He was selected by the Mets in the first round of last year’s draft, but the Mets declined to make him an offer after reviewing his medical information, as he had not participated in a program that would have made that information available during the pre-draft process. 

Boras, who participated in the news conference via Zoom, declined to comment on how the process with the Mets fell apart.

“You have a healthy pitcher, who’s adjudicated by every other orthopedic surgeon to be who he is,” Boras said. “Every club has a right to have their own medical opinions. Our job was to prepare Kumar for today, for this event.

“We’re very excited about what Kumar can bring. I think in this draft, you’ll find that after he performs [for the ValleyCats] that he again will be one of the elite people in this draft.”

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