Kansas City Royals: Will Bubba Starling Ever Make it to Majors

Kansas City Royals center fielder Bubba Starling (11) - Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Royals center fielder Bubba Starling (11) - Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The Kansas City Royals have been patient with outfielder Bubba Starling, but many are beginning to wonder if him making it to the majors is ever going to happen.

In the 2011 MLB Draft, the KC Royals selected Bubba Starling with the fifth overall pick. At the time, Royals fans were thrilled with the pick (even if they won’t admit it now).

Here was a team that was down in the dumps for decades and they just landed a local kid out of Gardner, Kansas to their squad. Starling was one of the most athletic guys in the draft, actually committing to play both football and baseball at the University of Nebraska.

Once drafted by his hometown team though, Starling decommitted from Nebraska and joined the Royals, and everyone hoped that this kid would end up being the real deal.

At this point in his career, if Starling isn’t getting it at the plate, then he likely never will.

Instead… Here we are nearly six years later and Bubba Starling has still yet to take a major league swing.

He’s literally grown up in the Royals minor league system, beginning from when he was 18 years to now sitting at 24 years old, and hasn’t shown a whole lot of improvement over that time. Last season was a horrendous campaign for the Gardner native, which is not a good sign for the Royals.

The 2016 season saw Bubba Starling split time between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha, neither of where he fared well at all. He averaged a slash line of .183/.235/.298, which was a giant disappointment after he had a promising 2015 season with Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas.

His 2015 season was what Kansas City Royals fans had been waiting to see since he was drafted. Starling slashed .269 /.337/.448 during his 2015 campaign with the Blue Rocks and Naturals, but hit a wall the following season.

At this point in his career, if Starling isn’t getting it at the plate, then he likely never will. That’s a scary thought for Royals fans, as the team invested a lot in this kid and he hasn’t shown anything yet.

The optimism for Starling is that he’s a great defensive player and is very quick, but those tools will never get to be seen by Royals fans unless he figures out how to swing the bat effectively and not strike out all the time.

Back in August, Tony Boone of Omaha.com wrote about Starling’s slowed progress,

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"Defensively, Starling has excelled with Omaha. He has played error-free in the outfield in his first 40 Triple-A games, and also thrown seven runners out.But he’s continued to struggle making contact. After striking out in nearly 35 percent of his at-bats at Northwest Arkansas, he’s fanned 40 percent of the time with the Chasers. Starling has gone down on strikes 30 times in his last 61 at-bats (49 percent), recording eight hits in that span (a .131 average)."

It’d be a huge disappointment if Bubba Starling flamed out after this upcoming season, but if he doesn’t show improvements in 2017, it’s not farfetched to say that his Royals career (and possibly MLB career) will be over. Starling has had more than enough time to show his worth and he’s been a huge bust up to this point.

Looking at the rest of that 2011 MLB Draft, the Kansas City Royals passed on guys like Javier Baez, Jose Fernandez (R.I.P), Sonny Gray, Francisco Lindor, and George Springer. Baez and Lindor were both huge playmakers for their teams in the World Series, Fernandez was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball before his tragic death, and Gray and Springer have both shown that they’re top notch players in the majors as well.

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At the end of the day, all teams swing and miss in the draft, but there’s no secret that the Kansas City Royals haven’t been drafting well over the past few seasons. Bubba Starling is their best example of that.

Let’s hope he has an amazing 2017 season and can contribute to the major league team not long from now.