More Than Just Bubba: Burlington Royals Clinch Appy League East Division


The Royals Appalachian Rookie League team, the Burlington Royals, celebrated their first division crown in 19 years with a victory on Friday.

This club is notable because they’re the first pro stop for last year’s top draft pick, Bubba Starling. But in baseball, like most sports, it’s more than one player who’s getting things done.

Starling is having a very good pro debut, with ten homers and a .282/.379/.505 slash line to this point, and, despite a lot of strikeouts, is patient enough at the plate to let pitchers walk him more than 12% of the time. He’s also been said to be where he should be defensively and has made a number of outs with his arm. He’s stolen ten bases but been caught only once.

That performance earned him a spot on the Appalachian League’s All-Star team but he’s not alone – third baseman Patrick Leonard and DH/1B Mark Threlkeld were also named to the team.

Leonard was a fifth round pick last year who has hit .255/.343/.500 in 251 plate appearances and leads Burlington with 14 homers. Threlkeld was a 25th round selection in 2011 with ten homers and 18 doubles in 228 plate appearances with a .292/.342/.550 line. Burlington leads the league as a team in homers, which has earned them the nickname of the “B-Town Bomb Squad“.

The team’s manager, Tommy Shields, was named the league’s manager of the year, as well.

Other notable players on the squad:

  • Humberto Arteaga, signed in July 2010, is hitting .277 as an 18-year-old shortstop.
  • Kenny Diekroeger is a 2012 fourth round pick out of Stanford and has played mostly at second base this. He started out hot, hitting seven homers through July. He’s slumped in August though.
  • Fred Ford was selected by the Royals in the seventh round in 2012 and is one behind Leonard for the team lead in homers. He’s walked a lot, as well, and it’s helped his on base percentage (.359) despite a rough batting average (.245).
  • Terrance Gore has stolen 51 bases as a pro, going back to last year. He’s been caught twice. The 2011 20th rounder has crazy speed. He’s been clocked to first base from the right side in 3.6 seconds and 3.81 seconds. That seems to be faster than minor league stolen base king Billy Hamilton. Not to call the results into question, but stopwatches are tricky things – but no matter what, Gore is fast. He just doesn’t hit for average or have power – though he does get on base (.382 in 2012).
  • Colin Rodgers signed out of high school as the Royals third round pick and went right to Burlington where he’s managed a 2.05 ERA over 11 starts.
  • Christian Binford looks like a sleeper after a 31/4 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. He’s also given up only one homer. He’s 19 years old.
  • Daniel Stumpf has struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings in 17 relief appearances. He was a ninth rounder this year.
  • Daniel Hernandez is old for the level (23) but missed all of 2011 after Tommy John surgery. He spent 2010 in Burlington as well. This season, he has a 61/7 K/BB ratio in 65 innings.