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The "in" thing to do right now in the prospect community right now is dump on Bubba Starling, so we decided to take a look at him in the first ever Beyond the Box Score Prospect Profile.
Bubba Starling is many things: fifth-overall pick, 7.5 million-dollar man and top prospect. He signed late last season and, because of that, he started this year in extended spring training and played with the Royals Rookie-level affiliate Burlington Royals. While an "old" 19, Starling flashed an awe-inspiring tool-set that is rarely seen from a prospect.
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6'4 Weight: 180 lb.
Starling had a big frame that offers a lot of projectability. At the plate his swing can get long at times and comes through the zone on a flat plane, with pure bat speed generating the majority of his power at this point in his career. He loads his hands too low, which causes the one-plane swing, and if he hold the hands higher he should be able to generate more power without having to square balls up. His approach is still very poor, as he struggles to recognize good offspeed stuff. Starling can work himself into bad counts when he tries to be more patient, and that is something he will have to work on to be able to draw enough walks to have MLB-value.
Defensively, Starling has all the tools to be a plus center fielder, flashing plus speed as well as good reads and above-average routes. He will need to work on his routes, but has all the natural talent to cover the ground necessary to play a good center field. He has a cannon for an arm, and it is not hard to see that he was a four-star quarterback recruit out of high school.
The first thing with Starling that jumps out is the power. He had an ISO of .213 in 227 PAs in the Appalachian League. This is made even more impressive by the fact that he hit in Burlington which, according to Minor League Central, is a suppressor of both doubles and home runs. Unfortunately, Starling had the 16th highest K% in the league (minimum 100 PAs), striking out in 30.8% of his plate appearances this season.
Starling was among the leaders in the league with 27 walks, but this was probably a bit of a mirage as teams would pitch around him due to his natural ability. Starling also had a high BABIP of .368, which when coupled with the high strikeout rate would lead me to be very nervous about batting average moving forwards. When your average is inflated to .275 in rookie ball, that is cause for concern.
Bubba Starling is one of the best prospects in baseball, one of the few guys who has true perennial All-Star upside. The lingering question is can he reach that ceiling? If everything breaks right, we could be looking at just that: a guy who Kansas City could bat third on a championship-caliber team. If everything breaks wrong? Jeff Francoeur.