2.) Bubba Starling CF
Bubba Starling feels like more of a folktale these days than he does an actual prospect. Drafted fifth overall back in 2011 out of Gardner-Edgerton (Kansas) High School, Starling appeared to be a savior for this Kansas City Royals franchise. A can’t-miss, five-tool prospect, Starling was surely going to be a key cog in the Royals march to a World Series title.
Surprise! He wasn’t, and he’s still a prospect yet to make his MLB debut. Luckily for the Royals, that could be on the brink of changing. With star center fielder Lorenzo Cain ready to hit free agency, Starling’s MLB debut could come as soon as Opening Day 2018.
If you read Kings of Kauffman semi-regularly, you may have read that I think the Kansas City Royals will attempt to re-sign Cain. However, nothing in life in baseball is guaranteed. If the Royals can’t bring Cain back to KC, Starling will be the next man up.
It’s no surprise to anyone why Bubba Starling hasn’t made his MLB debut yet. After starting off his minor league career fairly well (.856 OPS in 2012 and .785 in 2015), Starling hit a wall and slashed .185/.251/.322/.573 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2016. This was a crushing blow to a Royals franchise that probably expected Starling to be starting in right field by 2016 when they drafted him.
Up and Down 2017
To make matters worse, Starling slashed .129/.217/.194(!!!)/.411 in the month of April with Triple-A Omaha. To be honest with you, after the abysmal April, I was just about ready to write Bubba off. His bat was gone. He’d turn 25 in August. The Kansas City Royals had wasted the fifth overall pick and $7.5 million on Starling. It hurts even more considering some of the players the team passed on.
Then something clicked. I can’t explain it, but Starling started hitting. In May, Bubba hit .289. In June he hit .291. And in July he hit .290 (over eight games) and appeared to be back on track to debut in September.
Then he got hurt. An oblique injury sidelined Starling for the rest of 2017 and delayed a potential debut even longer. I really thought we were finally going to get Bubba Starling in KC. It never happened. But don’t fret. Starling’s 2017 with Omaha was incredibly encouraging for the former top prospect.
I have no expectations for Starling in the big leagues. Any contributions he makes at this point will really just be gravy. But he’s coming. I don’t know when, and I don’t know what position he will play. But if the Texas Rangers offer Lorenzo Cain a massive deal this offseason, Bubba Starling and his Gold Glove caliber defense could be patrolling center field at Kauffman Stadium as soon as Opening Day.