Bubba Starling had a decent enough season in 2015, but any optimism that the former fifth-overall pick would avoid being a complete bust was negated by his woeful performance last year. He struggled mightily at Double-A, and though he showed absolutely no signs of being able to handle the level, the Royals went ahead and promoted Starling anyway, with predictable results. He hit a homer in his first game with Triple-A Omaha, but he would hit only one other home run (among just eight total extra-base hits) over his remaining 173 plate appearances at the level. He is running out of time to salvage any value for the team that drafted him, and Starling is more likely to become a cautionary tale against drafting a player so high in the draft based purely on his raw tools. Playing multiple sports used to be considered a positive indicator for a ballplayer's athleticism, but now it just calls into question whether the player has developed the necessary skills against competition that is increasingly focused on a single sport.
Starling, 24, is hitting .200/.244/.292 since his promotion from Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The 2011 fifth overall pick's struggles stem from a six percent walk rate and 35 percent strikeout rate. He doesn't look like a candidate to be called up with the September roster expansion.
Starling was promoted to Triple-A Omaha on Saturday, MLB.com's Jeffrey Flanagan reports. This is the rare minor league promotion where the team is hoping a move up the ladder will jumpstart a player's production. Starling hardly earned the promotion, hitting .183/.251/.323, but the team likes the idea of rebooting his batting average. Starling took a big step back this year after making impressive improvements last season, when he struck out at a 24.9 percent clip at Double-A. This year that mark climbed to 31.5 percent, which is more in line with his disappointing career norms.
Starling went 3-for-39 in his last 10 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. At the start of the 2016 campaign, Starling picked up where he left off in 2015, sustaining a batting average in the realm of .250 until his recent slump. His line now sits at .195/.282/.376 and he's struck out in an astounding 40.6 percent of his 133 at-bats this season. Due to his struggles, Starling is seeing less playing time and has been replaced by Terrance Gore in center field. Since taking to starting role in center field on May 20, Gore has gone 6-for-23.
Starling was optioned to Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Monday, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reports. Starling struggled a bit against major league pitching, going 2-for-18 with a home run and three RBI in eight games this spring. He'll head back to Double-A to hopefully build off of a strong 2015 campaign and possibly move up in the organization at some point of the coming season.
Starling's contract was selected by the Royals on Friday. Once considered a bust, Starling took great strides in 2015, and therefore the Royals wanted to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. While most of the big names from Starling's 2011 draft class have already debuted in the majors, his time may not come until 2017, as he has not yet played above Double-A.