Minor-league baseball is vast, spreading an organization's talent from coast to coast. A KC Royals fan may know about the Midwest affiliates, but the Low-A Columbia Fireflies are a talent hotbed nestled on the East Coast. There, fans got their first look at outfielder Carson Roccaforte.
The young outfielder, plucked from the collegiate diamond of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, emerged as the 66th overall pick in the second round of the 2023 MLB draft. Roccaforte's collegiate tenure was nothing short of stellar, boasting a 2022 season that read like a highlight reel—a robust .374 batting average, 16 home runs, 68 RBIs, and 25 stolen bases. Recognized as First Team All Sun-Belt and First Team NCAA Division I South All-Region, he made a name for himself on the collegiate level. Despite not garnering top-100 prospect acclaim, the Kansas City Royals saw something special in Roccaforte, securing his talents with an $897,500 signing bonus on July 25, 2023.
Royals scouting director Danny Ontiveros had nothing but sterling remarks after drafting Roccaforte this past summer.
“There’s a little bit of similarity to Jim Edmonds when you watch him play in the outfield,” Ontiveros said. “Edmonds was a really good outfielder, moved real fluid, took great routes, great breaks, and you feel like [Roccaforte] does that. There’s some J.D. Drew -- sloped shoulder, easy swing. The way [Roccaforte] plays, it’s very smooth and fluid. Those are lofty comps, body comps more so, but we believe he can play center field.”
The KC Royals took a big gamble picking Carson Roccaforte highly in 2023.
Roccaforte can definitely field with the best of them, sure. But fans need to know: can he hit? The current Kansas City MLB roster features plenty of glove-first players in center field, but fans crave a well-rounded outfielder. Roccaforte came to Columbia and showed the first flashes that he could be that.
Roccaforte played 27 games with the Fireflies, with 24 appearances in center field. His speed showed up in the field and on the basepaths, as evident by his 11 stolen bags. Those are his above-average tools, according to MLB.com, so there are no concerns there. However, what Roccaforte needs to show is that he can hit and hit for power.
First, the good. Roccaforte drew walks at an exceptional rate. His 15.6% walk rate in Low-A was third-best on the Fireflies and ranked near the top 30 in the Carolina League. He had 26 hits in 27 games, so Roccaforte also averaged nearly a hit per game. That, plus his stolen bases, buoyed a 116 wRC+ in 2023.
Here is where Roccaforte needs to improve. His .099 ISO does not reflect what a polished collegiate hitter should produce against Low-A competition, while his 25.4% strikeout rate comes from an emotionally fueled plate approach. He did not have any home runs in Columbia and lacked the extra base hits that should come from his speed and experience.
Still, evaluators say "he can make adjustments, he has the potential to be a solid hitter with average power," and 27 games is hardly enough to make final judgments. The lefty has all the tools to grow at the plate, as his fielding and speed look more than solid. His hitting, both for power and contact, will ultimately determine his ceiling.