Detroit Tigers: Selecting one of the Vanderbilt pitchers is the goal

(The Tennessean)
(The Tennessean) /

The Detroit Tigers possess the third overall pick in the 2021 MLB First-Year Amateur Draft this summer, just a year after selecting Spencer Torkelson with the first overall pick in 2020. The Tigers are going to do their due diligence on all of the players available to be selected inside the top grouping.

There is no secret who the top players are, and the top two very well could be the two pitchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. The Detroit Tigers would be silly not to select either of these two arms with that third overall selection.

Both Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter are two very respectable arms who are going to amount to be some pretty special pitchers. The stats they are putting up at Vanderbilt are video game-like.

For those who forgot, Kumar Rocker threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter against Duke University in a Super Regional game in 2019 to help the Commodores reach the College World Series against Erik Bakich and Chris Fetter’s Michigan Wolverines team.

The Detroit Tigers are banking on being able to land one of the two Vanderbilt pitchers: Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker.

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The Tigers are known for their love of drafting starting pitchers. See Beau Burrows, Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and company.

It just seems beyond silly to miss out on either of these two arms who are slated to possibly go one-two in the draft order.

Let’s do a check-in on Leiter and Rocker to see how their 2020 seasons are going:

Jack Leiter: 6-foot, 195-pound RHP

The draft-eligible sophomore has been electric on the mound for the Commodores in 2021 and has been even better than he was in the minimal showing he had in 2020 before COVID-19 led to the season being cancelled.

In 2021, Leiter has made eight starts where he is 7-0 with a 0.55 ERA and a 0.65 WHIP for Tim Corbin and Scott Brown’s staff. Leiter has punched out 84 hitters over 49.0 innings pitched while allowing only 13 hits and only issuing 19 walks on the season.

The best way to describe Leiter’s 2021 performance is: disgusting.  He has been exceptional in 2021, and if he falls to third overall, the Tigers are going to make a HUGE mistake not selecting the right-hander to add to the future of this team’s pitching staff.

Kumar Rocker: 6-foot-5, 250-pound RHP

While Leiter may have made more headlines in 2021, Rocker is still just as dominant on the mound as in prior seasons. His velocity was down a few starts back, but he has since ironed things out, and his 2021 season stats are still incredible.

Rocker has pitched in nine games where he has an 8-1 record, totaling 55.0 innings pitched overall. For the Commodores in 2021, Rocker has a 1.64 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP, and has struck out 81 batters while only allowing 29 hits and walking 15 opposing hitters.

Once again, the Tigers are not the brightest if they choose to pass on Rocker. Given his exceptional performance, there is no reason that he should not be taken in the top few picks of the draft.

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Either way, you look at it; the Detroit Tigers need to be hoping for one of these two Vanderbilt pitchers to fall through the cracks and make it to third overall.