Sunday was not your typical deadline. Any time you get an elderly man from Sacramento at odds with a front office run by the richest MLB owner with the most-perfectly oval-shaped head in pro sports, things are bound to get interesting. And that’s precisely what happened on the August 1 MLB Draft-signing deadline, when two of the premier prospects in all of baseball were left without pro contracts. One went unsigned by his own choosing: Jud Fabian. The other as a result of the aforementioned scenario: Kumar Rocker. That makes the elderly man mentioned above none other than the infamous Scott Boras, who was looking about as youthful as Eustace Bagge from Courage the Cowardly Dog if you happened to catch a glimpse of him these past few weeks. Botox is like $350, just sayin’. For Rocker and Fabian, the future remains tremendously bright, albeit drastically different from the path we anticipated just one month ago. Now, we get to sift through the fallout and ramifications as it relates to both of these future stars — and while we’re at it, we’ll check in on some of the top prospects in baseball.
Kumar Rocker – 312 players were drafted in the first 10 rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft. THREE went unsigned. That’s 0.962%. No, this is not Sport Science, and I am not John Brenkus. ESPN sucks worse than Flo from Geico. Of those three unsigned players, ONE was a first-round selection: Kumar Rocker. Three months ago, Rocker falling to No. 10 overall seemed like a pipe dream for the Mets. One month ago, Rocker going unsigned at any spot in the draft was unthinkable. But here we are due to concerns with the medicals relating to Rocker’s right arm. Rocker and his up-and-coming agent Scott Boras have refuted these claims, citing independent medical reviews conducted by third parties that indicate his throwing arm is fully healthy. Nevertheless, the Mets and the Vanderbilt product could not reach a deal, and New York effectively receives the 11th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft as compensation. Per a report from Jon Morosi, Rocker does not plan to return to college and is instead considering signing with a professional league outside the U.S. (or perhaps an independent team?). Things become even trickier from there, as the current rules require him to go through the 2022 Draft to enter the MLB. It’s going to be fascinating to see how all of this plays out and the lack of reliable information on Rocker’s throwing arm make him a difficult prospect to size up in first-year player drafts — especially considering he may no longer be eligible depending on your league format. There’s some precedent here in the form of Brady Aiken, who went unsigned as a first rounder in 2014 and is now out of baseball. I wouldn’t downgrade Rocker in FYPD by default, but the fact he may now be one extra year away from pro ball is certainly a reason to slide him down your rankings. Keep an eye on this one and we’ll provide updates along the way.
Kumar Rocker does not plan to return to Vanderbilt, source confirms @JeffPassan report. Signing with a professional league outside the U.S. is one option under consideration, but by current rules he’d need to go through 2022 Draft to enter MLB. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) August 2, 2021
Jud Fabian – Joining Rocker as the only other player from the first-three rounds to go unsigned, Fabian was unable to reach a deal with the Boston Red Sox by Sunday’s deadline. This is an entirely different situation from Rocker, as there’s no physical or health-related concerns about the Florida product. Instead, Fabian fell to 40th overall in this year’s draft after widely being considered a first-round talent, and Boston scooped him up in the second round — likely under the assumption they could sign him for less than the $3 million reportedly being demanded. Some teams behind the Red Sox, such as the Orioles, were apparently willing to go beyond $3 million to sign Fabian — so was this a block on Boston’s part, or did they really think they could sign him for less? I have to believe it was the latter, but now Fabian will head back to Florida and play the entire 2022 season at the age of 21. Fabian enrolled at Florida a year early after graduating from high school in December of 2018, so he will still have plenty of leverage when the 2022 Draft comes along. If Fabian can cut down on the strikeouts and hit closer to .300 next season, he’ll be a top-10 pick and maybe inside the top five.
— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogers) July 31, 2021
Reid Detmers – Made his MLB debut on Sunday against Oakland, allowing six earned runs on six hits across 4 1/3 innings. Detmers struck out two and walked two. The 10th overall pick of the 2020 MLB Draft had a rough go at it in his first taste of big league action, but has otherwise enjoyed a ridiculous first season in pro ball. Over 60 innings split across Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, Detmers pitched to a 3.15 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 15.9 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. In my debut Razzball post in March of 2020, I made a case for Detmers as the top-pitching prospect in his class, writing: “So although many feel Detmers projects as a middle-of-the-rotation guy who sits around 90-94 MPH with his fastball, he has elite command and pitchability and should move more quickly through the minors than many of the arms that are drafted before him this June…” As it stands today, I’d trade any Detmers share for a Max Meyer share (see below), but remain incredibly bullish on Detmers and believe he will evolve into a top-end (perhaps a two?) fantasy starter within the next two seasons. My only reason for pause is that it is highly likely the Angels will screw him up sometime between now and then.
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 1, 2021
Max Meyer – I sent a text to The Itch a few weeks back and although I don’t think he took me seriously, I’d like to share that scorching-hot take here: Max Meyer should be the No. 1 prospect in baseball next year — maybe no. 3 behind Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Whit Jr. Straight ludicrous, right? To qualify that statement, Itch and I are a decent ways apart on Meyer — and you’ll probably never see Itch rank a pitcher that highly simply based on overall philosophy. But allow me the opportunity to make my argument. Meyer was drafted third overall by the Marlins last June after using a 70-grade fastball and 70-grade slider to pitch to a 1.95 ERA and 15.0 K/9 in his junior season at Minnesota. Meyer was sent straight to Double-A in his Minor League debut in 2021, and he has been nothing short of spectacular: 4-1, 1.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .211 BAA, 9.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 across 70.0 innings pitched. Admittedly, the walks are high, but I’ve seen enough of Meyer to know he possesses the adequate control to excel in the long-term. And if we’re comparing him to Detmers, Meyer is far more athletic and the Marlins are beginning to make a name for themselves as having a knack developing young arms. Meyer will not only be fantasy relevant by 2021 — he’ll be a formidable fantasy asset. Those who have shares — hats off to you. Those who don’t — get some.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 12, 2021
Spencer Torkelson – Speaking of who should be the top prospect in baseball next season, I can tell you already no one else is going to share the same lofty opinions as me on Meyer — everyone else in the industry will be putting either Torkelson or Adley Rutschman at the top spot — and for good reason. But I made the statement above under the assumption Meyer will hold onto his prospect status longer than Torkelson (and Adley Rutschman). As the former No. 1 overall pick in 2020, Torkelson has done basically everything possible to prove his hit and power tools were as advanced coming out of college as scouts said they were. Through his first 70 MiLB games split across High-A and Double-A, Torkelson is slashing .278/.401/.552 with 15 home runs and four stolen bases. He has walked at a 15.8% clip while posting a 21.1 K% — both quite respectable given his youth and power profile. His OPS has been above .900 at both stops on the farm thus far, and barring anything catastrophic, we’ll see him contributing as the biggest threat in the Detroit lineup by summer 2022.
It's a 10!
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 30, 2021
Adley Rutschman – How about another name with a good shot at being the focal point of his parent club’s offense by summer 2022? Look no further than Rutschman, who should lay the groundwork for a much-improved top-of-the-order for Baltimore alongside Cedric Mullins by next season. As the No. 2 overall prospect and top catching prospect in the game, Rutschman owns a .271/.396/.498 batting line at Double-A Bowie this season. His Double-A OPS is just .014 points Torkelson’s, and he has produced 16 home runs, 14 doubles and one steal in 74 games this year. Similarly to Tork, Rutschman has shown a mature approach at the plate highlighted by advanced pitch recognition paving the way for 53 walks (15.9 BB%) against just 54 strikeouts (16.2 K%). As it relates to fantasy prospect rankings, Torkelson ranks ahead of Rutschman in my book. The Itch has it just the same, putting Tork at No. 6 in his revised top-100 and Rutschman at No. 10. In fantasy, there’s really no reason to be more bullish on Rutschman simply because he plays a premium position (catcher). It’s all the same, and I think Tork’s bat is a surer thing.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 28, 2021
Bobby Witt Jr. – Taking us home today is Witt Jr., who has officially reached Triple-A and already made 58 trips to the dish in Omaha — Kansas City’s top affiliate. After posting a .295/.369/.570 line across 61 Double-A games, Witt. Jr. is off to a .291/.328/.527 in Triple-A. Collectively, the 21-year-old has 19 home runs (38 XBH) and 16 stolen bases in 73 games this year. If he’s not up in September for a cup of coffee, he’ll be up with the Royals come May 2022. Witt Jr. has the makings of a perennial All-Star, and if you have him on any of your dynasty league rosters, your best move is to hold unless someone offers you something out of this world. In other words, keep your Witts about you.
440 feet?!?! ???
— Omaha Storm Chasers (@OMAStormChasers) July 26, 2021
As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.