Bubba Starling #81 – 2013 Top 100
Kansas City Royals
Date of Birth: August 3rd, 1992(age 20)
Origin: 1st Round Pick(#5 overall) in 2011 out of Gardner-Edgerton HS(KS)
Conor Dowley: What a difference a year makes. Listed as the 27th best prospect on our list last year, largely because of his pure potential, a rough professional debut in 2012 sent Starling tumbling down in a hurry. His plus projections for power, speed, and outfield defense all still hold true, but something happened to his swing last year. It wasn’t pretty.
We all knew when he was drafted that the swing would be the thing that could hold Starling back, but what had shown as a long swing with potential to improve before he was drafted suddenly became a super-long, slow, herky-jerky swing that left him at a constant disadvantage. The fact that he had more strikeouts than hits (70 to 55 over 232 plate appearances) is a massive concern given the level of competition (advanced rookie ball, the Appalachian League). He’s going to need to put in even more work than previously thought in order to make his swing viable.
On the plus side, if his swing progresses to even an adequate level, the tools projection is strong enough to make him an incredibly intriguing talent. When he does get bat on ball, Starling can put a big charge into it, and that will give him a lot more leeway to work through his struggles than most players are afforded. His pure athleticism allows us to project him as a plus defender in center field, an asset that teams love to have around.
JD Sussman: It’s funny Conor, Starling’s campaign was totally foreseeable. Going into the draft Starling’s hit tool was a major question mark. I wrote a rebuttal to an article claiming that Lindor was the better pick at the time because he was younger. The truth is, as it was at the time, Starling’s floor is incredibly low for a draftee because of his hit tool and inexperience; Lindor’s is incredibly high because of his premium defense at short. I’m sure Chris will chime in and discuss Starling’s swing in more detail, but unless he gets his strikeouts under control all of the tools in the world won’t help him reach the Majors. Still, we have to keep in mind that Starling did not focus primarily on baseball until signing with the Royals.
Chris Blessing: Thanks for the setup JD. I understand the love for Bubba Starling. This kid bleeds tools. The one tool of concern is his hit tool. The only word I can use to describe Starling’s swing is ugly. I’ve never seen such a pronounced hitch from an elite prospect before. He has enough bat speed to catch up to a Major League average fastball and above. Where the hitch costs him the greatest difficulty is with breaking pitches and off-speed offerings. The hitch makes it virtually impossible to hold his swing. The development of pitch recognition skills will help him avoid swinging wildly out of the strike zone, but I fear, without a tremendous rework of his swing mechanics, Starling’s baseball career could see a quick demise. As an evaluator, you hate to see anyone struggle, particularly someone with the amount of raw ability that Starling possesses. This kid is a special talent, but I have to agree with JD: if he can’t curb those lofty strikeout numbers, he’ll never realize a fraction of his promise.
Fantasy Outlook by Conor Dowley
If he even makes the majors (which will probably be at least a few years from now at this rate of progression), expect a low batting average, a healthy number of homers, and some stolen bases for flavor. In other words, something not terribly dissimilar to what Josh Reddick did in 2012.