When trusted baseball minds used the words "bizarre pick" (subscription required) to describe the KC Royals drafting of Carson Roccaforte this summer, red flags popped up among Royals fans. The pick itself was not a head-scratcher, but the Royals picking him at 66th overall was the problem. Now, Roccaforte's performance at Low-A Columbia is making fans quickly forget about those concerns.
The KC Royals picking Carson Roccaforte looks better with every game.
The Royals picked the left-handed outfielder with their competitive balance pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. The pick raised red flags for two reasons. First, fans who read draft prospect rankings as gospel saw Roccaforte as a reach. He was not a top-100 prospect from any outlet, including Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, or The Athletic. Secondly, that red flag propped up the idea that the Royals were simply being cheap. They presumably had an under-slot pick in Blake Mitchell, so why go with Roccaforte, who would likely be under-slot as well?
It was a valid concern at the time. But, after seeing the Royals use their entire draft pool and then some, the Roccaforte pick looks savvy in the grand draft scheme. More than a month later, the pick looks even better as Roccaforte easily handles affiliated ball.
He only spent four games in the Arizona Complex League, sporting a .533/.500/.600 line in 16 plate appearances. It looked too easy for Roccaforte, and at 21 years old, he was well above the league's average age. So, the Royals fast-tracked him to Columbia, where he has not missed a beat at the plate or in the field.
As of Sunday, Roccaforte had 10 games at the Low-A level. He has 45 plate appearances, with a .333/.444/.472 line in those games. Sure, he has yet to clobber a home run in Werner Park, but his gap-to-gap power is showing up for the Fireflies. He already has two doubles and a triple, along with six RBIs. He has a hit in nine of his ten games. All told, he has a 160 wRC+ and walks (17.8%) nearly as much as he strikes out (22.2%).
There is little to dislike about Roccaforte on a Columbia squad that struggles offensively at times.
Without doing much analysis in the pre-draft process, my first concern about Roccaforte was his glove. He was a right fielder his freshman year, a first baseman his sophomore year, and a centerfielder in 2022. There is value in versatility, but not securing a consistent position at Louisiana-Lafayette is questionable as well.
Thankfully, the Royals are going with him as a centerfielder right now. He only has 82 innings there in Low-A, but he looks plenty comfortable.
Every game brings a new highlight moment for Roccaforte this season. His moving up to High-A Quad Cities before the season ends may be unlikely, but it is not outside the realm of possibility. MLB evaluators describe Roccaforte as a "solid hitter with average power" and "a solid defender with an average arm", but that establishes a great floor for the 2023 draftee.
MLB Pipeline ranks him as the Royals' 15th-best prospect and top centerfielder in the farm system. He may rise up that list with a strong end to the 2023 season. If Royals fans want to see a good prospect story in the Royals' lower minor leagues, look no further than Roccaforte in Columbia.