Saturday, March 30, 2013

Prospect Countdown: #1 Bubba Starling

1. Bubba Starling Outfielder

Age: 20
Position: OF
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 180
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st Round (5th Overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft
From: Gardner, KS

Paden Bennett (2):  Bubba Starling is a freak, he has all the tools and God-given gifts that anyone could ask for in an athlete.  Starling has power, speed, agility.  When Starling was drafted he was compared to a young Jeff Francoeur when he first came into the league.  Scouts raved about Frenchy's natural abilities such as: raw power, speed, arm strength and natural athleticism.  However Frenchy has always had a problem, he doesn't walk and he strikes out too much.  Now Starling does compare to Frenchy in terms of how they both were highly touted for their 5 tools and athletic ability but he also compares to Francoeur in terms of strikeouts.  Starling struck out 70 times in just 200 at bats last season, a number that could be a red flag.

However, Starling does do one thing that Francoeur doesn't do.  Starling has some patience at the plate as shown by his 28 walks in 200 at bats.  If Starling can continue to improve on his plate discipline and take walks, in my opinion his strikeouts wont matter as long as he hits for power.  I am fine with a guy that strikes out a lot as long as he gets on base (walks) and hits the long ball.  I always have had that mindset, and some people will disagree with me but that's just how I feel.

In my opinion, I see Bubba panning out and walking just enough to become an above average centerfielder with 25-30 home run power and an average around .240-.250 with good enough on base skills to keep him on the field.

Joe Cox (3)The story of Bubba Starling has been well documented, a high school two-sport star in high school that turned down an opportunity to play quarterback for Nebraska in order to sign with the Kansas City Royals organization after being picked fifth overall in the 2011 amateur draft.  Starling is the classic 5 tool prospect but is by no means a can’t miss prospect, as he is still very raw after focusing on multiple sports up to this point in his life.

Starling’s professional debut came last year in Burlington as a 19 year old, and he put together a pretty solid season in 200 AB’s.  With a triple slash line of .275/.371/.485 Starling displayed his ability to get on base and also displayed is plus power.  Defensively, few scouts seem concerned that he does not have the potential to be a very good center fielder.  The big question mark, of course, is Starling’s ability to make contact.

Starling struck out in over 30% of his at-bats last year, and scouting reports do not like Starling's swing at its current state.  The hitch in his swing and his inability to read breaking pitches could be the driving force that holds Starling back.  With time on his side Starling has plenty of time to figure out his swing in the minors, and the sky is the limit in terms of his raw athletic ability.  A plus defensive power hitting center fielder are a rare breed and very valuable, and Starling could be a middle of the order, All-Star caliber player with those skills.  It is very likely that in a few years we will see Starling in the majors, and obviously, then have a better idea of what kind of player Starling truly is.  Royals fans will have to be patient though because their budding star is still a work in progress.

Damion Mandalas (5): The 2011 first year player draft was absolutely stocked full of talent. The draft was loaded with advanced arms at the top and had it not been for the Seattle Mariners late decision to divert from their draft plans and take Danny Hultzen instead of a bat (I realize that more than likely it wasn't a late decision and instead was simply a smokescreen), the Royals would likely have wound up with pitching phenom Dylan Bundy. I don't think Starlings perceived development has been helped by the shooting stars that surrounded him in the draft.

There are a couple of major reasons to be concerned about Bubba Starling. As my peers have mentioned, the strikeouts are a huge problem. I can't recall the post, but I remember reading about other teenagers to have struck out in over 30% of their at bats in the Appalachian League. Let's just say the list wasn't awe inspiring, and the most successful player from the group was Preston Wilson. I think it is safe to say that if Starling winds up as Preston Wilson, Royals fans will be a bit disappointed.

Having pointed out the two most concerning factors with Starling, I want to point out that we knew Starling would be a project. Entering the draft we heard "5 tool talent" repeatedly, but most that looked closely found concerns about the swing and the ability to hit for average. We also all knew Starling was old for his draft class and given his affection for other sports, would be behind his peers. Ultimately, most of us were fine with those risks. I have my concerns with Starling, but I'm not going to jump off the bandwagon after a .275/.371/.485 campaign in a tough league on hitters. 

Dan Ware (3):  Bubba will be one of the most talked about prospects in the Royals organization this season. Sitting at #35 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects for 2013, just 11 spots behind P Kyle Zimmer. Other than the strikeout concerns, Bubba did nothing but impress in his professional debut last year with the Burlington Royals.  Given his age, 19, and that he needs to spend quite some time at each level to mature and to improve his raw talent, there is absolutely no reason for Bubba to be rushed through the system.

Easily considered a '5 Tools guy', Starling is the total package.  He has a tremendous, athletic frame at 6'4'' 180, which could have suited up football pads at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but chose to put on the baseball uniform instead, which we can all agree was the right decision!  His bat is somewhat of a mystery right now.  He can make contact, and when he does, he can hit with easy plus-plus power.  The problem is his strikeouts.  Last season for Burlington, he walked only 12.1% of his plate appearances, while striking out 30.2% of the time.  For how high our expectations are of Starling, this number is a little disconcerting  but you never know what happens this season. Hopefully he lowers that number and gains a little poise at the plate.

As for the field, there's no question he has tremendous upside in the OF.  His skills are good for his age, but are still unrefined, which will come along with age progression.  He's known for an easy plus arm and has great accuracy on his throws.  He can get to the ball with ease because of his excellent speed and quickness, but I've read he can misjudge a ball and makes his reactions rather late on occasion.  Potential wise, he should stick out in CF for years to come.

I'm expecting some good things out of Starling this season, as he'll start off 2013 for the Lexington Legends.  He'll be apart of an exciting team along with 3 other top prospects in Aldaberto Mondesi, Cameron Gallagher, and Miguel Almonte.  If there are Royals fans out in Lexington, Kentucky.....I'm incredibly jealous you get to see that team this season.

Total Points: 111


  1. I have truly enjoyed this series. Thanks for all of the hard work.

  2. I think I speak for the entire staff when I say we appreciate the kind words and support, Trader Jack!