Kansas City Royals: Bubba Starling hasn’t lived up to his potential

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

The former fifth overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft has underwhelmed in his first season with the Kansas City Royals.  What’s his long-term fit?

Coming out of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, Bubba Starling was thought to be the most athletic player in the draft, which at the time was the right move for the Kansas City Royals. They took him with the fifth overall pick. However, the 27-year old made his big league debut in mid-July of this season.

He took a long time to reach the big leagues, spending the entire 2012 season in rookie ball which is common for players drafted straight out of high school. He spent the 2013-2016 seasons working his way up from Single-A to Triple-A and spent the entire 2017 season in Omaha. He’s endured several injuries that have set him back and Starling only played in 20 games in 2018.

He was slashing 0.310/0.358/0.448 with 7 home runs and 38 RBI’s in 72 games for Omaha before finally getting the call to the big leagues. The glove was never a question as the Gardner, Kansas native has always received high praise for his defense. The problem was and continues to be (now in the majors) the bat.

Starling has played in 35 games for the Royals this season and has slashed 0.205/0.241/0.276 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI’s (32 wRC+) entering Wednesday. He’s striking out in 32 percent of his plate appearances and taking walks at just a 4.5 percent clip. While he’s under team control through the 2023 season, you have to wonder if time is simply running out on the 27-year old.

Look, he’ll likely be on the roster next season because there is not anyone better than him at the moment. Brett Phillips, 25, has also been sharing the centerfield duties with Starling but he’s not exactly “wow-ing” anyone either. With Alex Gordon potentially seeking other opportunities next season if the Royals decline his mutual option, we could see both Starling and Phillips playing at the same time which is not exactly encouraging.

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The Royals would be smart to explore someone on the free agent market as a potential fit for the position but the impending sale of the team will likely present a problem if and when this lingers into the offseason.