Thursday, April 5, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #2 Bubba Starling

#2 Bubba Starling

Age: 19
Height: 6-4
Weight: 185
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted 5th Overall in the 2011 Amateur Draft
From: Gardner, KS

Heading into the draft all of the talk seemed to point to Kansas City targeting one of the four advanced pitchers projected at the top of the draft. Perhaps, it was always a cover for their true love of local standout Bubba Starling, but because the Mariners shocked everyone and chose Danny Hultzen over Anthony Rendon we will never know. In the end, I believe the Royals got the guy they always truly wanted.

In high school, Bubba Starling was a superstar. He lived 30 miles from Kauffman Stadium. He averaged 28 points per game on the basketball court and he was the quarterback of the future at Nebraska University. Thanks to the latter, Bubba Starling had leverage that most draft picks don't. As a result, Starling's agent was able to negotiate a franchise record, $7.5 million bonus.

Starling's physical tools are incredible. He has as high an upside as any prospect in baseball. His power projects as plus-plus. He has shown the ability to make adjustments, leading some scouts to believe that he'll hit for both average and draw his fair share of walks. He has incredible speed that will make him a threat on the bases and a Gold Glove caliber defender in center field. He was clocked at 95 mph, and has an arm that could play in right should the need arise.

Of course, the doubters would point to several things as well. First and foremost, Starling isn't the most advanced high school hitter. As a three-sport star and growing up in an area that isn't exactly considered a prospect hot bed, Starling hasn't logged the at bats that fellow high school hitters have. Of course, for that same reason Mike Trout fell to the 25th pick in the 2009 Draft. Hopefully, Starling proves a similar story as the fellow five tool prospect.

Starling will open the season in extended Spring Training. He represents the crown jewel of the latest wave of talent that the Royals are developing. A slow approach with Starling could result in huge rewards, and given the current state of the franchise there isn't a reason to rush Bubba. Starling will likely receive his first assignment to Kane County when the weather warms, but it is also possible that the Royals elect to send him to a rookie league for 2012.

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