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.