Over the past few seasons, Bubba Starling has seen his prospect stock plummet. Once one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Satrling has fallen from those lists over the past few years, even becoming nothing more than a borderline top ten prospect with the Kansas City Royals. Of course, performances like his .218/.304/.338 batting line with nine home runs last season will dampen expectations.
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This season has been an entirely different story for Starling. He began the year in Wilmington, the first time that he has repeated a level in his professional career. It has certainly appeared to make a difference, as Starling has started his season with a .386/.471/.614 batting line, hitting two home runs and stealing two bases in 44 at bats. With this productivity, it is no surprise that Starling is being promoted to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
There are still concerns when it comes to Starling’s performance. Despite the lofty batting line, he did strike out 17 times in 51 at bats for Wilmington, striking out at a higher rate than last year when Starling struck out in 27.5% of his at bats. Coupled with a .600 batting average on balls in play, one has to wonder how much of this torrid start is sustainable.
Yet, there is more to this start than having the ball find a hole when Starling makes contact. Starling has hit the ball with a lot more authority, as he produced a 29.6% line drive rate, a 15.7% increase from last year. At the same time, Starling has hit a ground ball in just 33.3% of the time he has made contact.
Neither of these rates are likely sustainable, yet they do show signs that Bubba Starling may be coming around. However, to be the player that the Kansas City Royals hoped they were drafting, he is going to need to prove he can continue these advances at the AA level. As that jump from High-A to AA is considered the hardest in baseball, this will be a true test to see how far he has come.
Bubba Starling is getting closer to finally making the major leagues. Hopefully, he continues his excellent play now that he has been promoted to Northwest Arkansas.