KC Royals: Is the Promotion of Bubba Starling on its Way?

Mar 5, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Bubba Starling (11) runs to first base after hitting a pitch in the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Bubba Starling (11) runs to first base after hitting a pitch in the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The KC Royals 2011 first round draft pick could finally be on his way to Kansas City.

A top national player in both football and baseball coming out of high school, Bubba Starling ultimately chose baseball for his future career. The KC Royals took the young Nebraska sports stud 5th overall in the 2011 draft, and have been waiting patiently ever since for Starling’s bat to come together.

Finally, it seems Bubba has hit his stride. After slowly progressing through the minors during his career, Bubba has finally hit Triple-A and seems to be feasting on pitchers during the past month. Since May 1st, Starling has had a .308 batting average with three homers and 13 RBI’s. It has been no secret that the 7.5 million dollar signing bonus man has not quite lived up to his potential. Especially, when players like Francisco Lindor, Jose Fernandez, and Sonny Gray were all behind him on the draft board.

The pressure for Bubba to succeed has always been there, but this recent month has been one of the only true bright spots for the former first rounder. This comes at an extremely important time as well, with Lorenzo Cain being involved with trade rumors and Jorge Bonifacio cooling off after a red hot start. The chance for Bubba to make his debut as a fourth outfielder could be exactly what he needs to be successful in the Major Leagues.

In my opinion, the KC Royals should not automatically fill Bubba in as a starter. Instead, they should slowly add Bubba into the lineup which would take a lot of pressure off of his shoulders. Fans will expect a lot out of Bubba, as they should, but fans should also take into account the long process he has been through to get here. It hasn’t been easy for the former top five pick, and a slow start at the plate could be a real possibility if he indeed does see the big league roster (ex. Mondesi). Starling has proven to be a bit of a streaky hitter in the minors, as his .232 career minor league average suggests.

Why Bring Up Bubba?

One of the biggest reasons why the Royals could potentially bring Bubba up to the majors is because of his playing style. Starling shines in the outfield as a potential future Gold Glover, and his quickness would make him a threat on the base paths. Not to mention the excitement the move would bring to the fanbase or the correspondent spike in attendance at the K if he were indeed brought up.

His current hot streak also includes hits in 26 in the past 31 games as you can see below. This shows his streak isn’t just a couple of games that have bolstered his numbers; its been a month long process. Even after a rough .133 start to the season, Bubba has brought his season average up to almost .250.

Something has changed, and that something is his batting stance. The radio announcer for the Omaha Storm Chasers, Donny Baarns, who see’s Bubba everyday, contributes his stance to the difference in his production.

We could be seeing a lot of support for Bubba making his big-league debut soon. Soon being by the end of the summer. More or less, around the trade deadline. If something indeed does happen.

Speculation aside, the KC Royals current hot streak could put a halt to any trade rumors that have surrounded the team since Spring Training. If the Royals could just somehow be above .500 at the All-Star break, any chance they trade goes down dramatically. Especially when you look at the current status of the American League; it’s mediocre at best. The Kansas City Royals are 31-34 and yet only sit 2.0 games out of the last Wild Card position.

Where Is Bubba’s Spot?

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This brings a crucial issue to the table when you’re talking about Bubba to the majors. Where will the KC Royals find the room to add another outfielder to the roster? At the current moment, players who could be on their way back down to the minors or worse, out for good, could be Chris Young, Ramon Torres, Travis Wood, and even Brandon Moss. The lack of production from Moss has begun his demise as a possible clone of Omar Infante.

Chris Young remains on the roster when the Royals could bring anyone up from AAA that could be just as productive or better. Ramon Torres has seen little playing time, and if Bubba continues to play well, his value to the KC Royals will be higher than Torres’.

Why He Won’t See The Majors

Another problem with Bubba finally seeing the Majors in 2017 is the success Jorge Soler is having. While it is nice that Bubba is playing the best baseball of his career the past two months, he is being outdone by Soler in Omaha.

Jorge Soler is straight demolishing Triple A pitching in his time away from the major league roster. Soler has a .276 average with 10 home runs and 24 RBI’s this year for Omaha. His offense has been no doubt a lot better than Starling’s, but his offense at the Majors has been a different story.

This year for the KC Royals, Soler has hit .164 with one home run and three RBI’s. His slow start quickly lead to him losing his starting position to Jorge Bonifacio, and he has been stuck in the minors ever since.

This could lead to the Royals bringing up a hot Starling instead, when they already know what type of production they will see if Soler is brought up again. If this is the case, a corresponding move could be Torres back to Omaha or a long awaited Young departure.

Make It Or Break It

At the very least, if Bubba hits anywhere above .260 for the rest of the season you could see his name as an September call-up. This could be a huge spot in Bubba’s career because if the Royals are unable to re-sign Lorenzo Cain in the offseason, his performance in September could be a real determinant in the Royals future outfielder plans. If he plays well, and reminder, this is all speculation, this could help him earn a spot in 2018 if Cain or Bonifacio doesn’t work out.

Whether his year is 2017 or 2018, I expect it to be one of them. At 24 years old, Starling isn’t old per say, but the clock is definitely ticking for a prospect to have never reached the Majors; especially a first rounder. Largely because the 2011 draft was full of Major League talent, 26 of the first 31 players in that draft have seen a major league field. Obviously, Bubba is still not on that list.

The addition of Starling’s name to that list could be soon, however. The Royals can’t wait forever to see whether Bubba has what it takes to be a Major League talent. They are getting near a make or break season for Bubba that could decide his future with the club forever.

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Whether Bubba is one of the biggest busts in Royals history, or he turns out to be a productive big leaguer, we should find out soon. The Royals will either have to choose to finally give him a chance, or give up on him. His recent success points to the first option as the more probable one, but the success needs to continue. Whether it be July 31, September 1, or an early date next April, Bubba in a KC Royals uniform is almost guaranteed. Probably.