Stephen Strasburg/Max Scherzer, Tom Glavine/Greg Maddux, Jim Palmer/Mike Cuellar, and Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee. These are some of the names that come to mind when I think of some of baseball’s most dominant one-two-punches.
In Nashville, Tennessee, the Vanderbilt Commodores have formed their own pair of aces in MLB draft prospects Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. The junior and sophomore combo has taken the NCAA by storm, with a combined 8-0 record through their first 4 starts each.
Kumar Rocker, son of former NFL lineman Tracy Rocker, burst onto the college baseball scene in 2019 when, in his freshman season, he threw a no-hitter in the super-regional against Duke University. Since then, he has emerged as the front runner for the first overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft which will take place after the completion of his junior year at Vanderbilt. He was previously drafted in the 38th round of the 2018 draft by the Colorado Rockies.
Jack Leiter also knows a thing or two about famous fathers. His dad, Al, played a 19 year MLB career, won 2 World Series, and threw the first no-hitter in Marlins history. As a sophomore, Jack is making a name for himself after his freshman year was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leiter has quickly jumped to the top of draft boards with his dominant start to this season and will be eligible for the 2021 draft despite only being a sophomore, as he will turn 21 years old before draft day. He was previously selected by the New York Yankees in the 20th round of the 2019 MLB draft.
When you look at the Commodores stat sheet, it is eerie how similar and dominant these two righties have been this season. Rocker and Leiter have posted almost identical strikeouts, hits, and runs alongside identical opposing batting averages and W-L records. Don’t just take it from me though, have a look at their dominance yourself.
That’s right, Kumar Rocker is yet to allow an earned run through 23.0 innings pitched (knock on wood), and Leiter has only allowed one. These two have essentially been untouchable through their first 8 combined starts, and they have shown me no reason to believe their dominance will stop any time soon.
Despite their near-identical stat lines, due to his success under pressure and on the national stage, Rocker still seems like a lock to be the 1:1 pick, which belongs to the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, Leiter and LSU righty Jaden Hill are climbing the mock-drafts and making their cases to be the first pitcher off the board. This year the #1 pick in the draft has a slot value of $8.4 million, $300,000 more than 2019 first overall pick Adley Rutschman’s record $8.1 million bonus. Most mock-drafts have Leiter going to the Red Sox at pick #4, which holds a slot value of $6.6 million.
The 2021 MLB draft will take place on July 11-13 in conjunction with MLB All-Star Game activities in Atlanta. This will be less than a month after Rocker, Leiter, and the Commodores defend their 2019 College World Series title in Omaha. Although Leiter was still a senior in high school when Vandy won their 2019 title, he will be on the front lines on June 19 when the 2021 College World Series kicks off.
Vanderbilt’s twin aces will have the next 3 months to continue to make their case for draft day, and nobody in college baseball looks capable of stopping this dominant 1-2 punch on their quest for back-to-back titles. If Rocker and Leiter can lead the Vandy Boys to their second straight championship, go ahead and throw them up there with the greatest dual aces of all time. Stephen Strasburg/Max Scherzer, Tom Glavine/Greg Maddux, Jim Palmer/Mike Cuellar, Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee, and Kumar Rocker/Jack Leiter.