The Kansas City Royals may have sent Bubba Starling to the minors on Monday, but that does not mean we have seen the last of the Royals prospect this season.
Heading into Spring Training, Bubba Starling was a longshot to break camp with the Kansas City Royals. Although there was a void in right field, Starling had only spent part of a season above A-ball, and had one season of minor league success. His invitation to the major league side of camp was a reward for that performance, and a chance for him to see how players like Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer prepare on a day to day basis.
The expected outcome of Starling’s Spring Training came on Monday, as he was optioned to the minors. Given his .111/.111/.278 batting line, Starling certainly did not put any pressure on the Royals front office to give him the job in right this season. However, this does not mean that we have seen the last of Starling this year.
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Last year, Starling began the season in Wilmington, where he had left off in 2014. After struggling to a .218/.304/.338 batting line with nine home runs, he hammered the Carolina League, posting a .386/.471/.614 batting line with two home runs in his first eighteen games. This year, Starling is going to begin the season at Northwest Arkansas, where he hit at a .254/.318/.426 clip after his promotion.
With a second chance at the same level, Starling may be able to take a step forward like he did in the Carolina League last year. If Starling is able to take a similar step forward in the Texas League, and find his way to Omaha before the halfway point of the year, it may not be a stretch to imagine him in right as a September callup.
As whoever ends up as the Royals starting right fielder is likely a placeholder until 2017, when it is anticipated that Starling will arrive in Kansas City, it is not unreasonable to think that the timeline could even be accelerated. A torrid start, and success in AAA, could even lead to Starling being with the Royals sometime in August.
Maybe Bubba Starling’s time has not yet come with the Kansas City Royals, but it will be coming soon. All he needs to do is continue that progression from last year.