Bubba Starling‘s $7.5 million bonus as the No. 5 overall pick in 2011 remains the most ever given to a high schooler or a position player in Draft history. He has batted .237/.326/.388 as a pro and whiffed in his first five at-bats in big league camp this spring before finishing on a 4-for-9 run. The Royals believe that Starling has made improvements to his swing and pitch recognition that will allow him to be more productive.
"This was his first real big league camp, and the thing that stood out was his pitch selection," Picollo said. "He laid off breaking balls and got better from a mechanical standpoint. There was a lot of consistency in his at-bats. [Manager] Ned [Yost] and the coaches got to see him for the first time, and they all raved about his defense."
That’s great, but nobody’s ever questioned Starling’s defense in center field.
And I hope you’ll pardon me for remaining just a little skeptical about these "improvements" to Starling’s swing.
Jim reviewed Starling’s career numbers, but I’ll mention that he a) spent last season in Class A, and b) turned 22 in August. Which means (yes) he’s older than Bryce Harper.
Summary: Trajectory does tell us something. Up is good. Down isn’t. That is, a No. 30 who fell from No. 20 usually won’t have as good a future as a No. 30 who rose from No. 40. Generally speaking.
After Starling was drafted but before he’d actually played, Baseball America ranked him 24th overall. After his first pro season, which was actually pretty good, he dropped to 35th. He’s now failed to rank among the top 100 for two straight years, and this spring is listed as the Royals’ 18th-best prospect.
Three years ago, John Sickels wrote in his book, "Starling’s upside is enormous. He could turn out something like Dave Winfield. He could also fizzle out in the high minors if sabotaged by contact/swing issues."
There’s a lot of uncertainty in these things, and every team misses on young players, every year. If somebody made a good case for Starling fizzling out in the low minors, he must be some sorta genius.