MLBits: Kumar Rocker's Return, Alek Thomas Bursts onto the Scene, Will Angels Add at the Deadline? More

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MLBits: Kumar Rocker’s Return, Alek Thomas Bursts onto the Scene, Will Angels Add at the Deadline? More

Chicago Cubs

MLB’s most prominent stars playing in October would be really cool, but the Angels have work to do this summer to make that a possibility. Plus, fading stars, rising stars, and your daily reminder that hitting major league pitching is ridiculously hard in today’s MLBits.

Kumar Rocker Signs with Frontier League Team Ahead of Draft

The New York Mets failed to sign their 2021 first-rounder, Kumar Rocker, last summer. So the one-time Vandy star is ramping up for another crack at the MLB Draft this summer by playing in the Frontier League, according to Jeff Passan.

Passan reports that Rocker is signing a deal with the Tri-City Valleycats, where he’ll pitch before the MLB Draft during the All-Star break. The six-foot-five right-hander registered 14 wins and 179 strikeouts on the season to lead the nation in both categories during his junior year at Vanderbilt last season. The New York Mets will receive the 11th pick in this year’s draft as compensation for not coming to terms with Rocker last season.

Will the Angels Add at the Deadline?

This afternoon, the Los Angeles Angels check in at 21-12, just a half-game behind the Houston Astros for the top spot in the American League West. Will this be the year that the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, finally gets back to the Postseason?

Trout had only appeared in the Postseason once in his career, when the Angels lost to the Royals in the 2014 ALDS. Trout is having one of the best starts of his career this season, and the Angels have the reigning MVP Shohei Ohtani and newcomer Taylor Ward, both of whom are also raking the baseball in the first six weeks of the season. It would be nice to see the Angels do anything to ensure baseball gets two of their brightest and most marketable stars onto the biggest stage.

Ken Rosenthal opines what July might look like for the Halos and also touches on Brett Gardner, Steven Matz, Taijaun Walker, the O’s, Verlander, Hader, Yelich, and more in his latest notebook over at The Athletic:

Alek Thomas Arrives in Arizona in a Big Way

The Diamondbacks might have a special outfielder on their hands in Mount Carmel H.S. alum Alek Thomas.

Thomas hit his first big league home run just days after being called up to Arizona and has been stroking it all around (Michael: Dangerous verbiage here). Thomas is 5-for-13 with two doubles, one home run, and three RBI. Thomas owns a 70 percent hard-hit rate and a sprint speed in the 87th percentile, according to Statcast. Take a look at his first home run; note that it’s an opposite-field shot:

Everything Thomas is doing is oppo taco right now, which is an excellent sign for the 22-year-old rookie outfielder. Here’s his first hit, an opposite-field double to the wall:

Here’s his first RBI, you guessed it, an opposite-field double near the left field line:

Oh, did I mention he can flash the leather too?

This kid is going to be good, and it’s nice to see a local product doing big things in the majors!

The Clock Has Run Out on Paul DeJong in St. Louis

One time an All-Star, the fall from grace has been long and rough for shortstop Paul DeJong. As Jay Jaffe highlighted in his recent story on him, DeJong was hitting just .130/.209/.208 for a 30 wRC+, ranking among the bottom four in the majors in all four of those categories among players with at least 80 plate appearances (he has 86) before he was demoted to Triple-A Memphis this week.

This is after DeJong slashed .197/284/.390/, with a 86 wRC+ last season and slashed .250/322/.349 and an 87 wRC+ during the shortened 2020 season. DeJong has been in a slump that has lasted years now, and it seems that the clock may have run out for DeJong in St. Louis as the Cardinals look to improve their roster for a push at the Postseason this year. Jon Morosi has already mentioned the Cardinals as the perfect landing spot for Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts if the Red Sox continue to flounder and pivot to sell mode ahead of the July trade deadline.

Jay Jaffe does a great job of discussing DeJong’s situation and what the future might hold for the one-time All-Star in his latest column at FanGraphs:

Odds and Ends …

•   Jayson Stark’s Weird & Wild column is always a fun read:

•   This is still as weird as it was 25 years ago:

•   On today’s installment of “So You Think You Can Hit Against a Major League Pitcher?” …

•   Dylan Cease had a wonky night against the Yankees on Thursday night. Cease logged 11 strikeouts through four innings. For the mathematically challenged among us, that’s 11-of-12 outs recorded via the punchout. The problem was when the Yankees did get a bat on the ball; the ball went far. Very far. Cease surrendered six earned runs on six hits while allowing two home runs and two walks in four innings of work. Cease had only allowed one home run this season before Thursday night. The Yankees are a wagon, man.

•   This is a fun infographic from MLB on the most recent pitcher (or pitchers) to throw a no-hitter for each team. Reid Detmers threw the most recent for the Los Angeles Angeles this week, but some of the teams haven’t seen a no-hitter on this side of the century. The Guardians have the longest drought, with their last no-no coming in May of 1981 (Len Barker). The Blue Jays, Rangers, Braves, and Pirates saw their last no-hitter come during the 90s.

•   This is a fun little nugget (unless you identify with the last six teams) from Buster Olney:

•   Josh Hader is back?

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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.