KC Royals top prospect Bubba Starling stumbled through a rough first week this spring, harming his chance to open the 2016 season in Kansas City.
The 23-year-old Starling slashed a mere .091/.091/.361 in 11 at bats, with three strikeouts while playing in five games in Surprise. He did manage to slam his first hit for a two-run home run in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Rockies, but his inability to make good contact shows he might not have progressed enough to be ready for the major leagues.
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Bubba Starling’s Achilles heel throughout his minor league career has been his high strikeout rate, despite an improvement to 24.9% at AA Northwest Arkansas last season. His three strikeouts with no hits in 11 early at bats has done little to convince anyone that his whiff problems are behind him.
Starling came into camp with hopes of making the major league roster after a breakthrough season in 2015 which saw him tear up High A Wilmington with a .386/.471/.614 triple slash, hold his own at AA by producing a solid .254/.318/.426 line, and continue to progress in the Arizona Fall League to the tune of .274/.330/.440.
Starling’s improvement was so impressive that Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost told 610 AM’s Kevin Keitzman:
Yost has noticed a distinct improvement in Bubba Starling’s approach at the plate:
However, in the grand scheme of things, Yost believes that Starling would likely benefit from more seasoning in AAA:
After Starling’s slow start this spring, he’s going to need a strong showing over the last three weeks to make the major-league roster out of spring training. Add in the fact that the KC Royals could extend team control over Starling for a seventh season by holding off on his debut until mid May, and it becomes unlikely that Starling will skip at least six weeks or so in AAA.
However, if Starling assaults AAA pitching like he did to High A last season, expect him to move up quickly to the KC Royals.