We are less than a month out from the 2021 MLB Draft, and there is no clear front runner as to who will go first overall. As of right now, all signs point towards the Pittsburgh Pirates selecting shortstop out of Eastlake High School, Marcelo Mayer. So, that takes one of the two top shortstops off the board early on. That’s where it gets interesting.
At the end of the 2020 season, the Boston Red Sox went on a winning streak and fell out of contention for a top 2 or 3 pick, they now sit at 4th overall. Sox fans were up in arms as the team may have missed out on the two top pitching prospects out of Vanderbilt, Jack Leiter, and Kumar Rocker. Now, let’s fast forward to today: June 21st of 2021. What if I told you that both of those arms could be up for grabs at the 4th pick? You’d think I was crazy, right? Well, rumor season is beginning to heat up, and it sure does look like Chaim Bloom and company will have a shot at one of the two stud pitchers come July 11th.
Now Comes the Age-Old Question… Leiter or Rocker?
So, Bloom may have a choice to make. Of course, it all comes down to who the Rangers and the Tigers take with their picks. According to predictions, if all goes well, the top two shortstops in the class will go 1 and 2, leaving the Tigers and Red Sox with their pick at the prized pitchers. For the sake of the argument, let’s just say both make it past the Tigers to the fourth pick. That leaves the question of do you take Leiter or Rocker? Here is a breakdown of both pitchers seasons for Vanderbilt (Excluding Playoffs)
Kumar Rocker-RHP-Age 21- College: Vanderbilt University
Let’s start with the son of a former NFL defensive lineman, Tracy Walker, who’s now part of the Eagles coaching staff. Rocker is a tall and physical right-handed pitcher who can throw some heat and overpower hitters with his fastball that usually maxes out at about 96mph, according to MLB.com. Probably his most impressive pitch, though, is his slider. Rocker and his slider are absolutely dominant and can cap out in the ’80s at times.
Rocker ended his regular season with a 2.46 ERA in 106 innings pitched while whiffing 155 batters–second in the nation.
His biggest flaw may be his command which I think can easily be fixed with some time in the minors.
Jack Leiter- RHP- Age 21- College: Vanderbilt University
Leiter is without a doubt the best pitching prospect in this year’s draft. He is the son of former MLB pitcher, Al Leiter. Jack isn’t exactly the same as his father, but in some ways he is. Leiter has all the makings of an MLB pitcher. His most elite pitch is his fastball, which, according to MLB.com, can top out at a whopping 97 mph. The kid just makes batters miss. Top that off with a 12-6 curve that he can get batters to chase on and it’s no wonder this kid is impressing so much at Vanderbilt.
His 2021 stats prove just that, earning a 2.16 ERA in only 96 innings pitched while leading the nation with 156 whiffs. He and Rocker anchoring that staff makes them almost untouchable, which is why these two are so dangerous and make up the two top pitching prospects this year.
His only flaw is really his height, as being 6 foot 1 is tough for a starter. However, he is out to prove that height doesn’t matter and will look to keep that mantra alive when he is drafted.
So, Who Should the Red Sox Take? Leiter or Rocker?
Like I stated, for this exercise let’s say both Rocker and Leiter fall to pick 4, it is totally possible as there are rumors that Leiter could be tanking his stock so he can land with the Red Sox. That aside, Bloom does have a tough choice to make. That choice comes down to the better pitcher. The MLB draft is all about taking the best player, not needs. If you are going with the best available, that choice should be Jack Leiter. He has all the tools needed to be an MLB Caliber pitcher and maybe even an all-star caliber pitcher. Rocker can be seen as the same, but he has more adjustments that need to be made mechanically to take it to the next level. It is a really tough choice, and, of course, there could be a scenario where both pitchers are not there. That’s another article to come later this week, so stay tuned. That being said, if I had to pick one of them, this would be my choice…
FINAL VERDICT: Sox select Jack Leiter
Stay tuned. As I said, on Wednesday, I’ll continue my dive into the upcoming MLB Draft and go into what the fallback options are for the Red Sox.
Jeff Hoak- @JeffHoak1
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