Rangers pitching prospect Rocker, twice a top-10 pick, needs Tommy John surgery

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Texas Rangers pitching prospect Kumar Rocker, a top-10 pick in each of the past two MLB drafts, has a torn ligament in his right elbow and will need Tommy John surgery.

Rangers general manager Chris Young said Tuesday that Rocker had an MRI after his start last week at Class A Hickory. The surgery will probably be later this week.

Rocker was the third overall pick by the Rangers last summer, when the right-hander was drafted again a year after concerns over a physical led to the former Vanderbilt standout going unsigned by the New York Mets as the 10th overall pick.

“This was an acute injury, it was completely different than what we saw in our post-draft exams and MRI,” Young said. “This was an injury sustained pitching for us in his last start.”

Young said the 23-year-old Rocker, who was 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in six starts for Hickory, was close to a promotion when he got hurt. He had 42 strikeouts in 28 innings.

“Certainly we're disappointed for him, but know enough about the person, know he's going to get through this, and come back back better than ever,” Young said. “He's just a man on a mission, and he knows this is part of his journey.”

Rocker got a $5.2 million signing bonus from the Rangers last year. That was well below the slot value of nearly $7.6 million for the third overall pick.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound pitcher had shoulder surgery in September 2021, then played the first part of 2022 with the Tri-City ValleyCats in the independent Frontier League. He was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in five starts, with 32 strikeouts and four walks over 20 innings.

Rocker was the only first-round pick in the 2021 amateur baseball draft that went unsigned. The pitcher and the Mets failed to reach an agreement by the deadline that August because New York had concerns over the health of his right arm. Rocker’s agent, Scott Boras, said Rocker had “non-pitching-related minor surgery” on his right arm.

After the Rangers formally introduced Rocker last August, Boras again didn't get into specifics of that procedure, but said, “I think the point of it is, Kumar didn’t have a pitching-necessary scope. ... No physician told us he needed something. It was really just an evaluation of what was there.”

Rocker was 28-10 with a 2.89 ERA over 42 games from 2019-21 at Vanderbilt, where he was teammates with right-hander Jack Leiter. The Rangers drafted Leiter with the second overall pick in 2021, and he is in his second season with Double-A Frisco.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/tag/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports