HISTORIC FINISH
Baseball America|August 2021
Vanderbilt’s dynamic duo of Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter are the first teammates to win our College Player and Freshman of the Year awards in the same season
TEDDY CAHILL

Vanderbilt right-handers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter came into the 2021 season regarded as the two best college prospects in the country.

Both could have been first-round picks out of high school—Rocker in 2018, Leiter in 2019—but opted to instead to play for the Commodores. As they entered their draft year, both had a chance to be chosen with the first overall pick.

As lofty as the expectations were, Rocker and Leiter largely lived up to them. Rocker went 14-4, 2.73 in 122 innings. Leiter went 11-4, 2.13 in 110 innings. The pair tied for the national lead in strikeouts with 179. Both were first-team All-Americans, making them the first rotation-mates to earn that honor in the same year since Rice’s Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend in 2003.

Rocker and Leiter led Vanderbilt to the College World Series finals, where the Commodores fell one win shy of repeating as national champions after winning it all in 2019. While neither Rocker nor Leiter ended up as the No. 1 overall pick —the Pirates instead selected Louisville catcher Henry Davis—Leiter went second to the Rangers and Rocker went 10th to the Mets. That made them the first rotation-mates to be selected in the top 10 picks since UCLA’s Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer in 2011.

No other player in college baseball this year combined the level of success, premium prospect status and impact as Rocker and Leiter. For those reasons, Rocker is the Baseball America Player of the Year and Leiter is the Freshman of the Year.

Rocker turned in an impressive third season of college baseball. In addition to matching Leiter for the most strikeouts, his 14 wins were the most in the nation. In three seasons on campus, he went 28-10, 2.89 with 321 strikeouts and 68 walks in 236.2 innings.

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