The Royals front office hasn’t lost faith in top prospect Bubba Starling despite his horrific year at the plate in 2016. Starling has slashed .188/.241/.306 across AA and AAA this season.
After what many considered a breakout season at the plate last season, Bubba Starling has pretty much crashed and burned in 2016. He recently turned 24 years old, and has been in the system for five seasons. But, Starling still continues to struggle at the plate.
He plunged from the no. 7 rated KC Royals prospect on MLBPipeline.com before the season began all the way down to no. 28 in their mid-season update.
The good news for Starling, however, is that the Kansas City Royals scouting department hasn’t given up the former no. 5 overall pick of the 2011 draft. The KC Royals Director of Minor League Operations Ronnie Richardson told Omaha World Herald reporter Tony Boone:
"“As an organization, we believe in Bubba,” Richardson said. “Our hitting coach and staff are all working hard. And we trust the process. We believe that he has the ability to play at the major league level.”"
"“We’re just working on a couple of things,” he said. “And I’m going to tell you what, in the last few games I’ve really seen some good swings. It’s just a matter of staying away from balls out of the zone and not missing the pitches when you get them. The swing itself is looking tremendously better.”"
Starling’s problem is that his strikeout rate has zoomed to an unacceptable 37.6% in 2016, up from an admittedly bad 31.8% in 2015. MLBPipeline.com cites Starling’s problems with pitch recognition and his loss of strike zone control as the reasons behind his crash in 2016.
The thing about Starling that makes scouts think he can succeed is that he posses terrific bat speed. Eventually, they think he’ll harness his raw skills and become at least playable at the plate. Paired with his elite glove, strong arm, and good base-running skills, he has plenty of tools to succeed in major-league baseball.
Of course, tools are one thing. But, so much of baseball is mental. Does Starling have the mind-set to succeed in major league baseball? That’s always the question when a guy with fabulous tools never seems to put them all together.
Bubba Starling still has time to reach the upside that many scouts saw for him back in 2011. But, the clock is ticking.