Bubba Starling's Big Day

Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. Outfielder Bubba Starling homered twice and drove in six runs on Monday night against Danville. Words like “bomb” were tossed around to describe the two-run shot that was his first pro homer. Later, he added a three-run shot to go along with an earlier RBI single.

When Bubba signed his bonus and became part of the Royals organization last summer,  the hope was that he’d swiftly move through the system and realize the potential that his tools suggest he may have.

Then he tweaked a hamstring during instructional league sessions. Speculation that he might open the year at Low A Kane County turned into nothing and he stayed in Arizona for extended spring training. When he was finally assigned to Burlington for short season rookie ball, he didn’t end up making his debut until June 28th, more than a week after Burlington’s season opener, due to more hamstring problems.

You could understand how the Royals would want to protect a player who got a $7.5 million payday out of high school. Maybe their caution of holding Bubba back allowed him to get healthy for his professional debut and at full speed, rather than fighting nagging injuries all summer.

At any rate, he debuted, went 0-5 and struck out three times and the stirring among Royals fans could be felt as hopes that Bubba wouldn’t be a bust spread throughout.

It’s far too early to call him a bust and far to early to start warning Bryce Harper and Mike Trout that their phenom status is under attack, but days like today do a lot to ease concerns of fans.

The tools are said to be there, but it’s a matter of refining them and gaining experience that will push Bubba up the minor league ladder. Some aren’t certain he’ll be able to translate his raw athleticism into results, but the upside is immense if he can. Despite being a high school draftee, he’s older than most high school picks, which could limit how much he can improve year by year. If his development can match his talent, it may not matter – he could turn into a strong player no matter what some studies could suggest.

He may not make it out of rookie ball this year, but days like these could at least push him up to the next level of Idaho Falls by the end of the season.

Step by step. That’s how it’ll work out for him to get to Kansas City. Today could be the first step.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Bubba Starling Kansas City Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals MLB Royals

  • ArrowFan

    What position does he play?

  • michael.allen.engel

     @ArrowFan Center field – maybe I should toss that in, huh? :)

  • eric.akers

    I don’t understand this line, “Despite being a high school draftee, he’s older than most high school picks, which could limit how much he can improve year by year.”
    I would expect an older player to be able to advance more quickly at the lower levels, mostly because of maturity, focus kinds of things.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @eric.akers Advancement and improvement are two different things. I’m referring to the popular idea that a player improves more from age 17 to 18 than from 18 to 19. More from 18 to 19 than 19 to 20 and so on, like a curve where eventually large leaps in improvement aren’t seen. 
    So what I mean is that by being older than most kids out of high school when he was drafted, it MIGHT stunt some meteoric improvement that a guy like Francisco Lindor, who was 17, might see. Bubba’s same period would have been in Kansas 5A baseball which is a lot different than the challenge of pro baseball (obviously). 
    Still, he’s got tools and more natural athleticism than most coming out of high school too, so that may be enough to bridge the gap or give him a headstart anyway.