2022 MLB Draft Report: Kumar Rocker, Dick Howser Award and Early MLB Draft Combine Impressions

College World Series gets underway in Omaha, Nebraska, and it’ll be a hot start. Temperatures will be 90+ degrees over the weekend, and the high on Monday is in the triple digits. This weather is conducive to high-scoring games, and it’ll be interesting to watch how many home runs are smashed at Charles Schwab Field. 

For 35 years, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association present its national awards at the College World Series. I’ve been a member for the last three seasons. I am honored to participate in voting for the NCBWA Dick Howser Award, which is given to the nation’s best college player. 

This year’s winner is Texas first baseman Ivan Melendez. In 65 games, Melendez hit 32 HR with 94 RBI and posted a .396/.516/.888 slash line. His walk rate was 17%, and his strikeout rate shrunk from 26.1% last year to 15.7%. For Sox Machine Patreon supporters, I listed Ivan Melendez as a 2022 MLB Draft prospect to follow during the College World Series

If he were a year younger, Melendez would be a Top-15 pick. But as a 22-year-old Redshirt Junior, MLB teams will leverage Melendez’s age against him to drive down his bonus amount. Still, there will be interesting from many MLB teams, and I expect Melendez to go in the first three rounds. Melendez is also a Golden Spikes finalist. 

For transparency, below is my Dick Howser final ballot. Each voter is to nominate eight players, with the top player receiving eight points and the eighth nominee receiving one point. 

Josh Nelson’s Dick Howser Award Ballot

  1. (8 points) – Kevin Parada, Catcher, Georgia Tech
  2. (7 points) – Ivan Melendez, First Base, Texas
  3. (6 points) – Drew Gilbert, Outfielder, Tennessee
  4. (5 points) – Jordan Beck, Outfielder, Tennessee
  5. (4 points) – Thomas Harrington, Starting Pitcher, Campbell
  6. (3 points) – Cooper Hjerpe, Starting Pitcher, Oregon State
  7. (2 points) – Gabriel Hughes, Starting Pitcher, Gonzaga
  8. (1 point) – Trey Lipscomb, Third Base, Tennessee

I picked Kevin Parada over Ivan Melendez due to positional difference. Parada is the best catcher in the upcoming 2022 MLB Draft class and handles his position well. When you add his 26 HR, 85 RBI, and .356/.451/.728 slash line, I thought that was enough to give the #1 vote to Parada over Melendez. Both deserve the award, and I expect Parada to be selected within the first seven picks of next month’s MLB Draft. 

Early Impressions of MLB Draft Combine

We are just one month away from the MLB Draft, and at Petco Field in San Diego, the MLB Draft Combine is underway. This is the combine’s second year, and there are more prospects than last year. If you listened to the latest FutureSox podcast, Mike Rankin and James Fox had Carlos Collazo from Baseball America join them. They explain the significant benefit of being part of the combine process is voluntary physical. 

Each player that participates in the health program will ensure they will receive at least 75% of the draft pick slot value when selected. Many are labeling this as the Kumar Rocker rule, but as Collazo pointed out in the podcast episode, Rocker would not have benefitted last year from such a rule because he did not provide his medical records before the draft.  

I like the premise of an MLB Draft Combine. It helped Colson Montgomery sell himself to the White Sox last year with the drills and interviews. For prep prospects in the first to second-round territory, I think it helps them the most as front office executives can follow up their scouts’ legwork. The interview sessions allow an opportunity to get to know the player better and gain more confidence in handing over millions of dollars to a teenager. 

Today was the combine’s best day with position group drills and batting practice. While the coverage is mostly highlights with Harold Reynolds commentary, it’s nice to see a wide range of prospects live rather than on YouTube. My request would be to follow the direction of NFL Network. During drills, the camera is fixated on players rather than quick cuts between prospects. I can watch how each football player is doing with each drill. MLB Network’s coverage is more of a highlight show.

Again, this is new to everyone involved, and I imagine it’ll get better over the years. For selfish reasons, I would love for next year’s combine to be hosted in Chicago. 

Kumar Rocker – An option for the White Sox? 

Back in Jim’s old stomping ground, Kumar Rocker is impressing MLB scouts pitching for Tri-City ValleyCats. He started last night pitching four innings on 55 pitches, with 36 being strikes while striking out seven. Rocker is still hitting 96 mph with his fastball and flashing the devastating slider. He only allowed two hits last night, one being a solo home run, but Rocker once again impressed. 

In MLB.com’s latest Mock Draft written by Jonathan Mayo, he has the White Sox taking Rocker 26th overall

I like this idea. 

The White Sox farm system needs more quality pitchers. Thankfully, Davis Martin has taken a big step forward in his development to help out the major league roster. In five starts with Birmingham, Sean Burke has a 3.27 ERA in 22.0 innings with 23 strikeouts to 11 walks. Matthew Thompson is starting to figure it out in Winston-Salem, and Cristian Mena probably should join him. 

Sure, there could be some promising options for the White Sox to develop back-end starting pitching options. But the concern remains about replacing Lucas Giolito, who becomes a free agent after the 2023 season. Nobody in the White Sox farm system has a good enough arsenal to dream of replacing Giolito’s production. 

Rocker does with his 60-grade four-seam fastball and 70-grade slider. He was Top-10 talent last year and, honestly, should be one of the first pitchers taken in this year’s draft. I like Gabriel Hughes from Gonzaga and would be happy if the White Sox took him 26th overall, but I think Rocker is better. 

The potential snag is Scott Boras, who represents Rocker. We know how well Boras does getting top dollar for his clients. Will Rocker’s bonus ask be too much for the White Sox at Pick 26? That’s the big question. 

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Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at josh@soxmachine.com.

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a-t

Is Rocker providing his medical info this time around?

jorgefabregas

I have not heard that he is or isn’t in the various reporting. Which, I dunno, maybe suggests to me that he isn’t? Sort of a “can’t prove a negative” thing. If he had provided medicals, then maybe there would be some reporting that he had.

upnorthsox

Kumar would be an awesome pick at 26 but he’ll be long gone by then.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Boras or no Boras, how much leverage can Rocker really have at this point? Is he really willing to sit out another season due to a contract dispute?

overland

If Kumar reaches #26 the Sox should beware. What do 25 other teams know that we don’t or should know?