No need to worry, but a rough start for Royals’ Starling
By Brendon Desrochers
We just wrote about Bubba Starling in this space, focusing on his fantastic defense in anticipation of his first full season of Minor League ball. In doing research for his piece on Starling, Andrew Pentis learned from a Royals official that “Bubba has respectfully decided to go silent this spring in order to concentrate on the field.” What’s surprising about his silence, though, is that it has translated to his bat in the first week of the 2013 season.
Starling is now 2-for-26 on the young season with 11 strikeouts after his 1-for-4, two-strikeout performance in Lexington’s 6-1 defeat to Asheville on Wednesday morning. He also committed his second error of the season, a throwing error in the top of the second.
A high strikeout rate should not come as a surprise to folks who followed Starling last season in Burlington. The center fielder, who turned 20 during his short-season campaign, fanned in 30.2 percent of his 232 plate appearances. This season, in a notably small sample, Starling has struck out in 39.3 percent of his 28 PAs. Two things he did show with the B-Royals were pop (eight doubles, two triples, 10 home runs) and patience (12.1 percent walk rate), but through seven games in 2013, Starling has no extra-base hits and two walks (7.1 percent walk rate).
“Small-sample size” should be flashing through your brain right as now as you read, particularly with a player who won’t turn 21 until August, but the early-season performance does back up the scouting consensus that his swing is too long and flat and the statistical consensus that he strikes out too much.
Baseball America noted in its prospect handbook that Starling was just one of three high schoolers drafted in the 2011 first round who did not advance to a full-season club in 2012. He was always going to be a project, and the path was always going to be a long one — particularly for his hit tool — so hopefully Starling and Royals fans can take these early issues in stride.
For as long as he stays in Lexington (likely at least a few more months and perhaps for all of 2013), Royals fans can see all of Starling’s home games and a good chunk of his road games on MiLB.TV.