Obviously, besides winning their opener against the Orioles, nothing great has happened for the Red Sox this season. For a brief second that night, you may have even thought to yourself, "this team isn't going to be as bad as I initially thought." Okay, well, let's scratch that nonsense; the Red Sox are bad, awful...some might even say terrible. But could there be a silver lining for Red Sox fans in this season being entirely unwatchable?
Well, do I have news for you! There isn't just one silver lining buried in the dreary depths of this season that you might not have identified yet -- but TWO of them! So, here we go, Red Sox Nation, all aboard the tank train! We're headed straight to Vanderbilt University, where we can find the two most coveted and possibly best overall pitching prospects in the 2021 MLB Draft. So, who exactly are they? Let's find out, shall we?
Meet Kumar Rocker. He was actually drafted once before, originally selected by the Rockies back in 2018. Due to signability concerns, however, he wound up slipping all the way to the 38th round before winding up with Colorado. Opting not to sign, Rocker decided to enroll in Vanderbilt that fall. This guy throws heat -- his fastball is mid 90's and only getting faster. He's also got incredible stuff beyond that, though, as his slider is even scarier than his fastball. Rocker became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the Super Regional when he did so in the 2019 NCAA Division 1 Baseball Tournament. He led Vanderbilt to a 3-0 shutout victory over Duke that night, a game in which he also recorded 19 strikeouts. Rocker stood out throughout the College World Series, eventually taking home the honor of "Most Outstanding Player." He had an incredible Freshman year and was looking even better in his Sophomore season; he had posted a 1.80 ERA and recorded 28 strikeouts in his 15 innings pitched. We'll never know what his full potential could've been this year, unfortunately, due to COVID-19.
Kumar Rocker on the hill for Vanderbilt during the 2019 NCAA Baseball Season
So yeah, Kumar Rocker may very well be the best prospect in the 2021 Draft, but what if the Red Sox don't end up with the top pick? I now present to you: Jack Leiter; you might be familiar with his Dad, Al. Jack Leiter is the more polished prospect between the two Vanderbilt-made pitching machines. His fastball is a little slower -- topping out at 93 -- and his spin rate is a bit lower than we would like. He relies heavily on his curveball, which is said to be as good as any of the top curves in the Majors right now due to his command of it. Leiter also has a very impressive slider which, once again, he has great command of. Lastly, he has a change-up; he's comfortable with it for sure, but it's definitely not his best pitch at the moment. It was definitely possible for good ol' Jack here to have actually passed Kumar Rocker as the number one prospect had the 2020 season continued, but at this point, it's tough to tell. Jack certainly has better command, but Kumar just has extreme heat.
Jack Leiter went 2-0 with 22 K's before the rest of his Freshman Season was wiped out
So, here's the deal: it's pretty obvious that the Red Sox need pitching prospects and they needed them like, yesterday. And I hear you loud and clear -- yes, E-Rod will be back, Chris Sale has started throwing, Nate is Nate and Martín Pérez has become a fan favorite of late. But the Sox need top tier pitching for their long term future as well and there's only one way to go about it right now: they have to lose and they have to lose A LOT.
The Red Sox have to tank and, like it or not, their fans need to support it. By cheering for the Red Sox to lose, we're actually inadvertently cheering for their future success. In a wasted season with no playoff run, wouldn't it be nice to still win a shiny, new rotation piece with an untouchable fastball and some nasty off-speed pitches? It totally would and you know it. The Red Sox have 11 games to get to the top of the 2021 Draft order, so they better get to losing.
Maybe you're a big, giant Sox fan like me and you still have a glimmer of hope that they'll win, so you feel guilty praying for their downfall. Just remember, though, this year has been BAD and we do not need a repeat performance over the course of 162 games. Let's face it, we lucked out in this abbreviated 2020 Baseball season. So, pinch yourself and wake up from the dream that is the Red Sox winning games this season. The tank race is on as we speak and we need to win THAT instead to help ensure a much better 2021 season.
- Anna (@annaclick22)