ARLINGTON — The Rangers right-handed pitching prospect Kumar Roker He has a torn ligament in his right elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery, the team announced Tuesday. The surgery will be performed later this week by team physician Dr. Keith Meister.
The former Vanderbilt ace was selected 10th overall by the Mets in the 2021 MLB draft, but did not sign with the club after a medical review and concerns about his right shoulder. He opted not to return to Vanderbilt for his senior season, signing with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the independent Frontier League before entering the 2022 MLB Draft, where he was taken third overall by Texas.
General manager Chris Young emphasized that this injury, which prevented the Mets from signing him in 2021, is a stark contrast to what the Rangers saw after the draft last summer.
“It was a serious injury and it was completely different from what we saw in our post-draft exams and MRIs,” Young said. “That was the damage he did for us. His last start up until that inning, he was really, really good. The impressive part was he was still throwing 94 to 96 mph the last game, but that was a lot different than what we’ve seen since the draft.
Despite the concerns at the time and the news, the youngster is still confident that Rangers made the right decision when they decided to sign Rocker last summer.
“From my perspective, every pitcher carries risk,” Young said. “Having gotten to know Kumar better over the last year, seeing him as a person, his personality, his makeup and his competitiveness, I am more confident than ever that he will be a successful Major League player. I’m glad he’s a Texas Ranger. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Pitching for High-A Hickory to open the 2023 season, Rocker posted a 3.86 ERA in six starts, striking out 42 and walking seven in 28 innings. MLB Pipeline has him as the Rangers’ No. 9 prospect.
Rocker has allowed no runs in his first two starts for the Crawdads, combining for eight innings, 12 strikeouts and just one walk. He then hit a streak, allowing three and four runs in his next two starts. The following week, Rocker righted the ship, throwing six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts to end the win for Hickory.
The injury was in his most recent start against Bowling Green, when he threw four shutout innings before allowing five runs in the fifth. He was removed from the game with two outs in the fifth, elbow discomfort leading to an MRI.
The 23-year-old is a “man on a mission” following the investigation. While he was disappointed at first, the rocker is in good spirits as he prepares to tackle this next phase of his career.
Rocker’s target date for his return to the mound will be the second half of the 2024 season.
“My only disappointment was for Kumar, because he’s a great guy and embodies everything we want in a Texas Ranger,” Young said. “He was very good. He was close to promotion. [to Double-A Frisco], and this time to make all kinds of root. As he told me, he loves a challenge. I have no doubt he will respond well to this. He will come back better and stronger and even stronger than before. We get a great pot.