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A rock for the rotation's future foundation? Rangers select standout college baseball pitcher Kumar Rocker with No. 3 pick in 2022 MLB Draft

The former Vanderbilt standout is among the highest-profile amateur baseball players in recent years. Last year, Texas chose his former college teammate Jack Leiter.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Friday, June 25, 2021, file photo, Vanderbilt starting pitcher Kumar Rocker (80) throws against North Carolina State in the first inning of a baseball game at the College World Series, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. The New York Mets failed to sign Rocker, their top pick from the 2021 amateur draft, by the 5 p.m. EDT deadline, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, over concern about his medical scans. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz, File)

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers may have just found the rock their future starting pitching rotation needs.

With the third overall pick in the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft on Sunday, the Rangers selected right-handed pitcher Kumar Rocker, one of the highest-profile college baseball players the country has seen in recent memory.

During three standout seasons at Vanderbilt University, Rocker went 28-10 with a 2.89 ERA over 39 starts and 42 overall appearances. As a freshman on Vanderbilt's 2019 College World Series championship team, he was selected winner of the CWS Most Outstanding Player. In his final collegiate season -- his junior year, in 2021 -- Rocker went 14-4 with a 3.17 ERA and 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings across 20 starts en route to becoming a unanimous first team All-American selection.

Since leaving Vanderbilt, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Athens, Georgia, native has made five starts with the Tri-City Valley Cats of Troy, New York, in the independent Frontier League this summer. Across that stint, he's gone 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA, posting four walks against 32 strikeouts for a rate of 14.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

The Rocker selection marks the second year in a row in which the Rangers have selected a former Vanderbilt starting pitcher with their first round pick. Last year, the club selected right-handed pitcher Jack Leiter -- the highly regarded prospect and son of former MLB pitcher Al Leiter -- with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2021 MLB Draft. 

Rocker was also selected in the 2021 Draft -- he went 10th overall to the New York Mets -- but did not sign a contract prior to last year's August 1 deadline, thus making him eligible to re-enter this year's draft.

Because Rangers forfeited their second-round selection to sign free agent second baseman Marcus Semien during this past offseason, Rocker will be the only selection the team makes on the first day of the 2021 draft. The Rangers also won't make a pick in the third round of the draft, having forfeited those rights to sign shortstop Corey Seager this past offseason as well

The team will, however, make selections at third pick in each of remaining rounds of the 20-round draft, starting with the fourth round.

They'll surely be doing so while envisioning a future that sees Leiter and Rocker anchoring their staff for years to come.

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