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Bubba Starling #81 – 2013 Top 100

Written By on 7th March, 2013

#81 Derek “Bubba” Starling (Outfielder[R/R])

Kansas City Royals

19 232 55 8 10 28 70 9 .275 .371 .485 .384

Date of Birth: August 3rd, 1992(age 20)
Origin: 1st Round Pick(#5 overall) in 2011 out of Gardner-Edgerton HS(KS)
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 180 
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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.

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2013 Top 100 Prospects

8 Comments on "Bubba Starling #81 – 2013 Top 100"

    • Profile Photo
      JD Sussman March 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm -

      Care to elaborate? 

  1. Profile Photo
    Chuck March 8, 2013 at 8:59 am -

    Starling is going to be a star for a long time.

    Everyone is quick to jump on the “bad swing” story, but no one has mentioned why.

    This gives a little idea of what the Royals were doing.


  2. Profile Photo
    Chris Blessing March 8, 2013 at 9:36 am -

    It’s not a story, Chuck.  It’s reality.  That hitch you see in the video from mid August just doesn’t disappear overnight.  A complete rework of a swing is one of the hardest processes in baseball.  If he accomplishes it, his path to superstardom is paved.  Right now, we’re looking at a kid with all the tools in the world with one bad habit standing in his way.  I hope, when I get my 2013 snapshot of his swing in the Sally, that I scout a player that has eradicated the hitch demon.  I’m very skeptical.

  3. Profile Photo
    Chuck March 8, 2013 at 10:51 am -

    The problem isn’t the hitch.

    The Starling I saw at Instructs in October was different than in your August video; the Starling I saw four days ago was different than the one I saw in October.

    We don’t know if he’s going to be a star or the next Brandon Wood.

    At the same time, though, it’s unfair (IMO) to criticise a player we know is making mechanical changes intentionally or going through a complete transformation.

    We can question the process during, but only upon completion can we question the results.

    • Profile Photo
      JD Sussman March 8, 2013 at 7:17 pm -


      At the same time, though, it’s unfair (IMO) to criticise a player we know is making mechanical changes intentionally or going through a complete transformation.

      We can question the process during, but only upon completion can we question the results.</blockquote>

      Chuck, this is a poor critism. One has every right to be critical of a Starling’s present ability to make consistant contact. His present ability (or inability) is a factor in his future projection. Getting from point A (present) to point (b) “complete transformation” is hardly a given and that affects one’s current preferces.

      That isn’t to say his current ability is dispositive though. But, no one here is saying it is. Far from it. 

  4. Profile Photo
    Chris Blessing March 8, 2013 at 11:58 am -

    Thank you for commenting. I’m an unbiased observer. I’d argue that in each instance that you mentioned watching Starling, it was in a controlled setting.  If I didn’t criticize aspects of a prospect’s game that is hurting his development and his potential, no one would take my writing seriously. I’m not being harsh and I’m not getting personal. Nothing would please me more than Starling succeeding.