Starling’s Career Crossroads
After these up and down years in the minors, Starling finds himself at a career crossroads in 2017. After crashing down every prospect list, Starling will need to make the needed adjustments to change people’s minds again. And, even if he can’t ever figure out how to hit, Starling will probably find himself a spot on a major league roster. His speed and defense are still considered elite.
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What fans need to watch for this spring in Starling’s game is seeing if he has improved his feel for the strike zone. He struck out 36.4% (!) of the time last year in AAA. Starling needs to simplify his swing and make more contact. If he can do this, you could still see an above-average hitter in the future. It’s just a matter of if.
The early returns so far look encouraging. Starling is slashing .300/.364/.300 this spring in Surprise. His .664 OPS is hardly impressive. But, the more important number is that he has only one whiff in 10 at bats. Starling looks like he’s making progress with his contact problem.
Like I said, there is still hope for Starling. For example, Lorenzo Cain had a season where he posted a .615 OPS in AA (in the Brewers organization). Cain is a good comparison for what Starling can become if he reaches his upside: some pop, good speed, and great defense. Both of them also got late starts to their baseball careers.
Time is running out for Starling. Hopefully he has made the adjustments to change. Because if he can, there is still an above-average player in him.