Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
It was about time to write off Bubba Starling as a bust for the Kansas City Royals. The fifth overall selection in 2011, he had gone from a top prospect to a colossal disappointment, culminating with his disastrous performance last year. After producing a meagre .218/.304/.338 batting line with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Starling cratered in the Arizona Fall League, hitting at a .177/.226/.241 clip, striking out 30 times in 84 plate appearances. So much for that top prospect status.
This season, the light bulb went on. He began the year once again at Wilmington, and crushed the ball during his time there, producing a .386/.471/.614 batting line. After twelve games, Starling earned a promotion to Northwest Arkansas, where he continued his promising arc. Although his .254/.318/.426 batting line was not as impressive, Starling still hit ten home runs and 19 doubles, while continuing to show progress in his ability to make contact.
The difference between this past season and prior years was that he made an adjustment in his swing. Instead of a more uppercut swing, Starling has worked to level the plane of his bat, resulting in more line drives and the improvement in contact rates. He is still far from being a polish prospect, but Starling appears to have begun to take his raw tools and put everything together.
Bubba Starling may have a refresher at AA at the beginning of this season, but if he continues his progression, he could well find himself in Omaha by midseason. If that happens, Starling could end up making his debut with the Kansas City Royals later in the 2016 campaign.
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