Kumar Rocker will not play in Globe Life Park (now Choctaw Stadium), the old home of the Texas Rangers. But the pitcher might one day play nearby at Globe Life Stadium.
For one night during the 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) First Year Player Draft, the clock turned back to the days of yesteryear when MLB boasted of countless Black American superstars.
Once upon a time, Major League Baseball boasted of iconic Black talent like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey, Jr.
Sure, Black Latins continue to dominate Major League Baseball.
But what happened to Black American talent?
Many have suggested that youth baseball has priced out many young Black American athletes.
Others have stated that shows like ESPN’s “Sportscenter,” “NFL Live” and “NBA Today” have made basketball and football more popular choices with their highlight reel plays.
And even more have suggested that baseball has become too boring for the younger generation to embrace.
Whatever the reasoning behind the dwindling numbers, the dearth of Black American baseball stars took a back seat during the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft.
On July 17, four of the first five draft picks in the first round were Black Americans.
After the Baltimore Orioles selected Jackson Holiday (son of former baseball star Matt Holiday) out of Stillwater High School in Oklahoma as the first overall pick in the draft, the next four players selected were all Black Americans.
RegalMag.com looks at the four draft picks to see what the analysts have to say about their prospects.
- Druw Jones (Arizona Diamondbacks)—It says something when the first two players selected in the draft are the sons of former Major League Baseball stars. Jones is the son of Atlanta Braves legend Andruw Jones. MLB Pipeline expert Jim Callis said of Jones, “Everyone knew the D-backs coveted Jones and they pounced on the top-rated player on the MLB Pipeline’s Top 250. It’s an easy comparison, but he reminds so many evaluators of his father, Andruw Jones, at the same age. He has the same Gold Glove potential in center field and he has one of the best power-speed combinations in this Draft. I know everybody focuses on the tools first, and rightfully so, but he has an advanced approach and feel for his swing as well. This is the first time the top two overall picks in the Draft were the sons of former Major Leaguers.” Jones is an outfielder from Wesleyan High School in Peachtree Corners, Ga.
- Kumar Rocker (Texas Rangers)—The Texas Rangers chose a former New York Mets draft selection with the third pick. Last year, the New York Mets selected Rocker with the 10th overall pick. MLB Pipeline expert Jonathan Mayo said, “Well we knew this Draft was going to be unpredictable, but we didn’t know it was going to turn like this so quickly. Rocker, of course, was a contender to go No. 1 overall in the ’21 Draft and went No. 10 to the Mets, who decided not to offer him any signing bonus because of concerns about his medicals. That meant he had to come back to the Draft this year…The Rangers obviously felt comfortable enough to take him very high—and to come to an agreement on a contract with a $5.2 million bonus just hours later…Rocker gets to reunite with his Vanderbilt teammate Jack Leiter, who represented the Rangers in the Futures Game in L.A. on Saturday.” Rocker comes from the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Frontier League.
- Termarr Johnson (Pittsburgh Pirates)—Jake Crouse of MLB.com wrote, “According to MLB Pipeline, which rated him as its No. 4 Draft prospect, ‘he might be the best pure prep hitter in decades.’ Pipeline awarded Johnson with a 70 hit tool on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, while acknowledging that some evaluators consider him a rare 80 hitter. One anonymous scout compared Johnson to two Hall of Famers—Wade Boggs (for plate discipline) and Vladimir Guerrero (for bat-to-ball skills).” But it is Johnson’s swagger that will make him comparable to today’s superstars. Johnson said, “I like to call myself not the best hitter; I like to say I’m the smartest hitter. At the end of the day, I know whatever I want to do in the box. It varies for every at-bat, but I kind of have a knack of what I want to do in each at-bat. I know how to adjust.” Johnson is an infielder from Mays High School in Georgia.
- Elijah Green (Washington Nationals)—Elijah Green might not come from MLB lineage. However, he does come from professional sports lineage. His dad is former NFL tight end, Eric Green. About Green, the Nationals wrote, “Green, 18, hit .462 (36-for-78) with 11 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 32 RBI, 15 stolen bases, 21 walks, 21 strikeouts and 40 runs scored during his senior season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He posted a .592 on-base percentage and a 1.000 slugging percentage en route to being named a First-Team All American by Collegiate Baseball. He was a pre-season First-Team All-American selection by Baseball America. The 6-foot-4, 225 pound, right-handed hitting outfielder is ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the No. 3 prospect in the 2022 First-Year Player Draft and by Baseball America as the No. 5 draft prospect. He is ranked by Perfect Game as the top high school prospect in the 2022 First-Year Player Draft, by Baseball America as the No. 2 high school prospect and MLBPipeline.com as the No. 3 high school prospect. Among high school players, Baseball America cited him as the ‘best power hitter’ and ‘best athlete’ in the draft.”