Last month, Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger caught up with outfielder Bubba Starling at the Royals’ Class AAA affiliate in Omaha (well, Papillion, Neb., to be precise).
It was, unsurprisingly, a great column and I encourage you to read it if you haven’t done so yet.
Starling was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft and signed for a Royals-record $7.5 million out of Gardner Edgerton High School. But he struggled in the minor leagues until recently when he seemed to turn a corner.
Since May 11, Starling had a triple slash line of .309/.346/.463 with five home runs in 46 games before being placed on the disabled list on Thursday.
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In Sam’s column, Starling said a key to his recent success has been not caring what other people think of him.
“I was like, ‘Shoot, yeah, why am I trying to impress all these people?’ ” Starling told Sam. “I feel really, really comfortable now.”
Starling will want to make sure to skip this post of Baseball Prospectus’ top 50 prospect busts of the draft era, because he is ranked 14th.
There are a few things to note. First, Baseball Prospectus did admit that its rankings are completely subjective.
“Each author set their own bar, based on their own expectations, and then tried to explain them,” Baseball Prospectus added in the staff written post. “High draft choice? Top-rated prospect? Costly trade acquisition? Anything can draw a line for a player, of which they can then fall short.
“Finally, remember that the idea of a bust is not only subjective, but relative. The players mentioned here, those who weren’t quite enough, were still at some point among the most talented athletes known. Most of them tried hard and worked through pain and listened to terrible music on buses. We do this not to make light of these men, nor really to praise them, but to remember them, remember the happiness we decided they owed us.”
It’s worth noting that Sidd Finch, the fictional subject of a famous Sports Illustrated story, is on the list, so the BP folks seemed to be having some fun with the list.
But not so much with what Mark Primiano wrote about Starling for the list. Primiano noted that Starling started well in 2012, but ...
“Starling’s strikeouts began skyrocketing, his contact cratered, and it started getting harder and harder to just write it off as him being young for the league,” Primiano wrote. “The nadir of his career came last season with a combined .534 OPS between AA and AAA. While he’s still only 24 and could make his way off this list in time, hitting .250/.296/.373 in the PCL while getting thrown out on half his stolen base attempts doesn’t exactly bode well.”
Starling, who is only 24, still has time to play himself off this list, and if keeps putting up good offensive numbers at Omaha, there’s a good chance he’ll be with the Royals later this season. If that happens, who knows what the future holds for Starling?