Management has been in place too long for the selection of Kumar Rocker to be regime-defining, but it could define this era. Before now, I think the most shocked I’d been at the top Texas pick during this gig was 2007, and that shock was Houston foregoing 1B Justin Smoak to take C Jason Castro in 2007. (A pick that paid off for Houston, incidentally.) This is orders of magnitude beyond that.
Purely in terms of talent and performance, Rocker is as good as anyone in the draft and justifies the pick. At his best last spring, he was appointment viewing, even more so than Jack Leiter. The questions are whether that talent and his health will persist after a shoulder issue that resulted in surgery last September. Texas went all-in on a positive outlook. It’s a daring, thrilling pick.
Everyone else available had their own risks. Elijah Green could be hitting .220/.260/.420 with a 35% strikeout rate in AA in 2027. Kevin Parada could have the bat of a 4th OF and no defensive value. Brooks Lee could end up being just okay, a little bland, and has his own dicey injury history. If that sounds harsh, peruse any previous draft list. It’s carnage. The consensus top arm in 2015 was our dear friend Dillon Tate. The next three pitchers off the board: Tyler Jay (pitching in indy ball), Carson Fullmer (closer… for the OKC Dodgers), and Kolby Allard. Calling the draft a crap shoot is unfair, but variances in outcomes are extreme.
After the 2021 debacle, Rocker had shoulder surgery (described in multiple outlets as “minor,” but still, shoulder surgery), worked out, and eventually joined indy Tri-City of the Frontier League. In five starts, Rocker posted a 1.35 ERA with two homers, four walks, and 32 strikeouts in 20 innings. The quality of the league is perhaps a high-variance version of low-A. That’s just a guess. The average age of a hitter is 25.8. Just picking players at random, I see a fair number of late-round college guys who perhaps had some success in short-A, some who reached the upper minors, others who never played affiliated ball. More to the point, reviews of his performance were strong. He sat mid-90s, touched 99. His wipeout slider is intact. His delivery is tighter, at a lower slot.
My expectation is management selected who they wanted most, irrespective of the parent club’s situation, but that said, Rocker could progress quickly and obviously would fill a present need. Rocker isn’t a pick to be traded or tested in the outfield because of Corey Seager. I’d read suggestions that had he fallen to a contending team, he could have been prepped for a 2022 MLB debut in relief. That situation doesn’t apply here. His pro debut could be in Arizona, but as for later, we’ll see. Frisco seems certain at some point.
Rocker reportedly has agreed to terms with Texas for $5.2 million, $2.4 million below slot and equivalent to slot money for the ninth-overall pick. Nothing is official.
The draft resumes at 1pm CDT today with the third round. Texas commences with the third pick of the fourth round.
AAA: Round Rock 7, at El Paso (SDG) 4
Round Rock: 8 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 47-43, 5 GB
SP Kolby Allard: 4 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 2 R, 2 BB, 6 SO, 65 P / 39 S, 4.25 ERA
RP Ryder Ryan: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 3.32 ERA
CF Bubba Thompson: 2-5, 2 SB (43), .299/.348/.461
RF Steve Duggar: 1-4, HR (2), BB, SB (3), .250/.333/.625
SS Ezequiel Duran: 2-3, 2 HR (6), .295/.329/.590
Ezequiel Duran homered twice. He has 32 doubles, three triples, 15 homers in 79 games across three levels. Duran has surpassed last levels 47 extra-base hits in 26 fewer games.
AA: Frisco 4, Midland (OAK) 8
Frisco: 9 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 6 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 9-9, 5 GB, 45-42 overall
SP Cody Bradford: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 41 P / 28 S, 5.93 ERA
1B Blaine Crim: 2-4, 2B, .274/.340/.462
RF Kellen Strahm: 3-4, 2B, HR (6), .286/.411/.406
Cody Bradford pitched on four days rest, unusual for AA in 2022, but was limited to 41 pitches on a quasi-bullpen day. Said pen allowed 33 runs in the series including eight today. Midland plated seven off Grant Wolfram (0.1 IP, 4 R) and Triston Polley (0.2 IP, 3 R).
Kellen Strahm was the series hero, batting .476/.577/.857 with two doubles and two homers.
Justin Foscue is homerless in his last 26 games, stuck at four. Recall that in 2021 Foscue homered in eight consecutive games en route to 17 in just 62 games. Most of that output occurred at Hickory. He homered twice in 26 AA games last year, and his 2022 rate is similar. He’s 90th of 99 Texas League batters in ratio of homers to fly balls (minimum 170 PA, about two per game). Foscue does rank second on the organization with 20 doubles.
High-A: Hickory 7, Wilmington (WAS) 1 (5)
Hickory: 8 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 1 hit, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 9-12, 6 GB, 47-40 overall
SP Mason Englert: 5 IP, 1 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 9 SO, 69 P / 48 S, 4.50 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 1-3, HR (9), .267/.366/.474
2B Thomas Saggese: 2-3, HR (9), .302/.353/.473
RF Aaron Zavala: 2-3, SB (10), .272/.423/.430
3B Cody Freeman: 1-2, HR (12), BB, .246/.334/.423
The Crawdads allowed 44 runs (7.3 per game) in the series and spent three games on the verge of pulling people from the stands to pitch, but they walked away with a split. Mason Englert retired 12 straight, allowed a solo homer, sent three more down, and then a perfectly timed storm commenced the All-Star break.
Hickory managed a split because of 15 homers by the offense. Evan Carter clubbed four in the last three days and slugged 1.046 for the week. Cody Freeman hit three, Thomas Saggese and Trevor Hauver two.
Low-A: Down East 4, Columbia (KAN) 7
Down East: 4 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 6 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 12-8, 2.5 GB, 45-41 overall
SP Winston Santos: 5 IP, 6 H (1 HR), 5 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 81 P / 53 S, 4.14 ERA
RP Damian Mendoza: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 1.18 ERA
RF Yosy Galan: 1-3, HR (12), BB, .233/.325/.442
Winston Santos endured his worst start in over a month. Santos only walked two, but they led off innings and would both score.
Maximo Acosta and Cam Cauley have shared the middle infield roughly equally when they’ve been on the roster at the same time:
Cauley: 24 starts at short, 13 at second.
Acosta: 23 at short, 15 at second.
Off until Friday
Five Years Ago Yesterday
Top 2017 pick Bubba Thompson doubled and walked for the rookies. 2016 pick Cole Ragans tossed six scoreless innings and struck out eight in Spokane.