Bubba Starling

08/08/14 - Baseball America Staff

2014 High Class A Best Tools

Best Defensive Outfielder Bubba Starling, Wilmington (Royals)
Best Outfield Arm Bubba Starling, Wilmington (Royals)

07/13/14 - Alan Eskew

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Bubba Starling was the fifth overall choice in the 2011 draft, but he continues to struggle offensively.

He was a three-sport star athlete at a suburban Kansas City high school, with a scholarship to play quarterback at Nebraska before the Royals signed him for a franchise record $7.5 million bonus.

While the Royals continue to have patience with him, Starling hasn’t shown much patience at the plate, hitting .207/.393/.330 with 97 strikeouts and 28 walks in 294 at-bats with Wilmington.

“I’ve never seen a highly touted prospect to be so overmatched at the plate,” an opposing scout said of Starling. “When he hits it, it can go a long way, but he strikes out a lot. He has difficulty recognizing pitches.”

01/13/14 - JJ Cooper Royals Top 10 Prospects for 2014

Scouting Report: Starling has above-average speed, is a plus center fielder and has an above-average arm. But none of that will matter if he doesn’t improve his feel for hitting. The Royals spread out Starling’s stance early in his pro career, but have subsequently moved his feet back together to improve his timing. With the wide stance and a small toe tap, he struggled to get his legs involved in his swing, and a torso-turn as part of his load made it hard to properly time pitches. Starling has enough bat speed that he is rarely late on pitches, but he often rushes the bat through the zone, rolling over outside pitches. He has decent pitch recognition skills and draws walks, so if he can get his timing issues corrected, he could unlock his plus power potential.

10/2/13 - JJ Cooper Top 20 South Atlantic League Prospects

Older than Bryce Harper and not yet master of the SAL, Starling may never figure things out and reach his ceiling. The fifth pick in the 2011 draft has moved at a glacial pace through the Royals system, and he’s still a relatively easy mark for pitchers who bust him up and in with fastballs and then induce him to chase sliders, curveballs and changeups off the plate.

However, Starling did show signs this year that his outstanding tools might come into play at the plate more often, particularly after having Lasik surgery in mid-May. He began unlocking his power late in the season, hitting .322/.398/.575 with 11 extra-base hits in 25 August games.

Starling is an above-average defender in center field with a solid-average arm and above-average speed. He has plus raw power, even if it hasn’t turned into productive in-game power yet. Given the entire picture, scouts and managers are leery of giving up on his still impressive potential.

“I saw a little more improvement in idea of what to do (late in the season),” an NL scout said. “He’s reacting better to offspeed pitches.”

10/3/13 - Nathaniel Stoltz at FanGraphs

Nearing an age where development needs to happen, Starling still has very glaring issues at the plate, and anyone who still places him in the upper echelon of baseball’s outfield prospects needs to get realistic, even if a glimmer of star potential remains. At the same time, those writing him off as a bust who will never be much more than a replacement-level contributor are also likely guilty of a rush to judgment. There are certainly problems with Starling’s game right now, but his development of a sound batting eye has been a big positive and his superior athleticism remains quite present.

8/10/13 - Babarr at RoyalsReview

The most impressive part of watching Bubba at the plate was his selectivity; it seemed like he legitimately had a plan. From following box scores every night, and even watching the occasional game on MiLB TV, I garnered the impression that to make up for his own short comings with the bat, he was becoming passive (A la Eric Hosmer in Burlington), taking pitches he should be attacking. In this game I didn’t see passivity as much as selectivity. He has a better idea of the strike zone than I was expecting given his 30.2% K rate of last year and his 24.6% rate this year. He was able to spit on breaking pitches, getting into beneficial counts where he could attack a fastball.

4/30/13 - Mark Smith of FanGraphs

The hit tool is his biggest issue, however. He starts with his hands in front of his right collarbone, and as the pitcher delivers the ball, he yanks them back into a deep load and thrusts them forward. That’s a lot of action in a small period of time, and it led to bad contact or no contact at all. He’s an aggressive hitter, and he has trouble even hitting fastballs and looked lost against off-speed stuff. I’m curious to see if and how much he improves when I go back later in the year.

4/19/13 - Clint Scoles at Pine Tar Press

I’m just an amateur scout but it definitely seems like the hitch in his load combines with his less than ideal pitch recognition skills cause most of those contact problems.


The good is when Bubba makes contact it is extremely loud as evident with his HR off 1st round pick Pat Light and a few other pitches he unloaded on. On top of the big time strength with the use of my editing software Bubba was timed around a 4.08 from home to first on the groundout to third base which shows he still has above average speed. Those two tools are things normal players don’t bring to the table everyday and show that the Royals have a nice piece of clay to work from but the other problems show they are far from molding a major league player out of it just yet.

3/7/2013 - Bubba Starling Prospect Ranking (#81) - Bullpen Banter

 As an evaluator, you hate to see anyone struggle, particularly someone with the amount of raw ability that Starling possesses. This kid is a special talent, but I have to agree with JD: if he can’t curb those lofty strikeout numbers, he’ll never realize a fraction of his promise.

3/1/2012 - Bubba Starling, OF Kansas City Royals - Prospect Instinct 2012 (video - click to rate his swing)

8/21/2012 - Minor League Prospect Note: Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals - Minor League Ball (video - click to rate his swing)

9/10/2012 - Bubba Starling’s Lengthy Swing - Fangraphs (video - click to rate his swing)
Not a positive review.

9/28/12 - Prospects Will Break Your Heart - Fall Instructional League Report: Part 2 by Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus

10/6/2012 - Prospect Profile - Bubba Starling - Beyond the Box Score

12/3/12 - Unconfirmed report of Starling shorting his swing in fall instructs.

Apparently Starling thought the team was being ultra-conservative in dealing with his injury earlier this season and he was frustrated by it- wanted to go play.  Good that he wants to get back on the field.

He also said that at fall ball(I assume he means instructs or something similar) that Starling is working with a coach who has convinced him that he needs to shorten his stride. Apparently Bubba has been able to stay back on pitches much longer and has been still driving the ball as well as he did previously.  Has been smacking it all around the park since he did that- he said he’s been hitting over .400 without losing power.

12/19/12 - Blessing’s 2012 Top 50 Prospects Scouted: Prospects 20 Thru 11 - Bullpen Banter, Chris Blessing (video)

19. Bubba Starling OF Royals – Bubba Starling is a tremendous athlete. Blessed with good speed, tremendous power, strong wrists, and a fantastic throwing arm, Starling makes a scout’s job easy. Scouts dream on his body, projecting him to superstardom. Then, however, he swings the bat. Calling Starling’s swing a mess is an understatement. Watching the video, a pretty noticeable hitch appears when he swings the bat. The swing is killing his prospect status. He’s 19 on this prospect list because his athletic gifts are tremendous. He’s also 19 on this list because this swing is a terrible red flag in his development. At this time, he is a right handed hitting strikeout machine. He’ll likely start 2013 in Class A Lexington. I hope, by the time he passes through my neck of the woods, the Royals have totally reworked his swing. I would hate to see a kid with his gifts get ruined by a terrible swing.

12/20/12 - Breakdown of Bubba Starling’s Swing - BBHM

12/20/12 - Tweet from Keith Law saying he has never seen a problem with Bubba’s swing

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