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Two of the most dominant pitchers in Vanderbilt baseball history are back together on the Major League Baseball level, kind of. Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker, though on different levels, are both in the Texas Rangers organization after leading the Commodores’ staff in 2020-21.
Jack Leiter is on the Double-A level.
Leiter, son of Al, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. He went 13-4 with a sub-two ERA in college and rung up 201 of his 690 batters face along the way.
POV video of a batter trying to face Leiter’s heater is terrifying. The same goes for his nasty changeup.
Although Leiter’s first year with Texas’ Double-A organization was not his best in terms of wins and losses and ERA, his strikeout numbers stayed high. He fanned more than a quarter of batters faced.
Now, as year two gets underway, Leiter has pitched 8.2 innings in two starts. His ERA hovers at 5.19 after a rough first outing, but he started to get things figured out on Wednesday night.
Kumar Rocker is on the High-A level.
Rocker’s path to professional baseball was not as smooth as his Vanderbilt counterpart. The Georgia-native stayed in the south for his college career and burst onto the scene with a 19-strikeout no-hitter during the College World Series as a freshman.
Over the course of three years in the SEC, Rocker sported an ERA that hovered right around 3.00 with a large amount of strikeouts of his own. His future was (and is) bright.
After being drafted No. 10 overall by the Mets in 2021 — eight picks after Leiter — Rocker verbally agreed on a contract that was well above the slot value. However, New York decided not to make an official offer after reviewing his medical information.
Rocker did not sign with an MLB team that year and went on to dominant independent league ball for a year instead. He was then drafted No. 3 overall by Texas in the 2022 MLB Draft.
Despite the tumultuous start to his pro career, Rocker has finally arrived.
The 23-year-old is starting on the High-A level, just to get him warmed up and acclimated. He made his Minor League debut on Tuesday night. Rocker struck out eight in five innings of scoreless baseball without allowing a single walk and only needed 53 pitches.
The mid-90s heat and wicked slider were all accounted for in Rocker’s debut.
If he and Leiter continue their upward trajectory, the Rangers could end up with two former Vanderbilt teammates in their starting lineup sooner than later. Not this year, likely not next year, but soon enough!