Even without playing a professional game, outfielder Bubba Starling was ranked as the Kansas City Royals second best prospect heading into the 2012 season according to Baseball America.
Royals fans were thrilled that Starling signed with his hometown team coming out of high school as the fifth overall pick in 2011. It has just taken awhile for him to get on the field.
Starling has dealt with injuries a bit. The Royals held him back this past season and he did not get onto the field until late June with rookie level Burlington (many thought he would reach Low-A but did not).
Starling had an up-and-down first professional season, but did show glimpses of of being a five-tool player. He hit .313 in 24 games in July with five homeruns, 20 RBIs and five stolen bases. However, he only hit .247 in August, though he still hit five homeruns and stole five bases. Over his final ten regular season games, he was just 7-for-32 (.219).
Overall, Starling hit a respectable .275 in 53 games with eight doubles, two triples. and ten homeruns. He scored 35 runs and drove in 33 for a Burlington team that made it to the Appalachian League finals. He stole ten bases and was caught just one time. The strikeouts are a bit of a concern (70 in 200 at-bats).
Starling played centerfield exclusively and had six outfield assists. He also was a part of three double plays. The downside was that he made four errors in 142 chances. But that is expected of someone playing in his first season.
Both Bob Dutton and MLB.com still rank Starling as the Royals second best prospect.
I was surprised that the Royals held Starling back in 2012, so who knows what they will do in 2013. I expect that he leads a young prospect-laden Lexington team in their first season affiliated with the Royals.