There is an old saying that goes, “Sh!* or get off the pot.” It means that someone needs to do something fast or stop trying. That’s where Bubba Starling’s baseball career is at.
Bubba Starling was selected as the fifth overall pick by the Royals in the 2011 major league draft. The four players selected ahead of Starling were Gerrit Cole, Danny Hulzen, Trevor Bauer and Dylan Bundy. Notable players selected after Starling include Anthony Rendon (#6), Francisco Lindor (#8), Javier Baez (#9), George Springer (#11), Jose Fernandez (#14), Jackie Bradley Jr. (#40), Trevor Story (#45) and Blake Snell (#52) among others. That’s a lot of top-level talent selected after Starling. Any one of them would have looked great in a Royals uniform. The Royals selected Starling.
At the time of the draft GM Dayton Moore said that although Bubba was an elite athlete, he had not played a lot of baseball and would take time to develop. It’s now 2019. Bubba was drafted eight years ago. You would have to agree today that Moore was right. The question now is will he ever develop enough to be a major league player?
Starling is entering his age 27 season. He will turn 28 in August. He has played in 622 minor league games. He has had 2,223 minor league at bats. He has stolen minor league bases at an 80% success rate. By all accounts he has been ready defensively for the major leagues for several years. It’s his offense that has held him back.
All of these factors combine to get Royals fans excited to see Bubba get off to a hot start in Spring Training this year. Small sample size be damned. Royals fans are cautiously optimistic that this is the year. They will tell you that they will believe it when they see it. The Royals are from Missouri. You have to show these people for them to believe it. And although many are doubtful, you can’t be a Royals fan from Kansas City without being hopeful and even slightly optimistic that this year he will do it.
So Starling’s 6-for-9 start at the plate with five runs, four runs batted in and two home runs is enough for some fans to dream. The problem is that this has happened a million times in baseball. This happens every season to someone just like Bubba and most of the time it never amounts to anything. There aren’t a lot of great major league players who make their major league debut at 26 or 27 depending on when, and if, Bubba makes it up this season. The age 27 season is often considered the prime of most position players’ careers, not their beginning.
Lorenzo Cain made his major league debut in his age 23 season and played in just six games for the Royals in his age 24 season. That’s not unusual. Cain didn’t play a lot of baseball in high school just like Starling. They were both multi-sport athletes. It took Cain a while to develop. That’s what a lot of Royals fans might have thought the timeline would be for Starling but every player is different.
This season feels like the last real chance Starling has to start his major league career. That’s not to say he couldn’t make an appearance or two in the majors in future seasons if it doesn’t happen this year. It’s just hard to see how he can establish himself as a starting major league outfielder if it doesn’t happen this season. And if it he doesn’t establish himself this season would those potential brief major league appearances in a year or two come in a different uniform? Probably.
So all of Kansas City is pulling for Bubba Starling. This could be the start of a major league career. Or it could be just another great week of Spring Training that we see have seen from many other players in the past. Either way, this season is bound to make or break Bubba Starling’s major league dreams.