It’s no secret that Bubba Starling is having a career year at Triple-A Omaha, which will hopefully get him the call to Kansas City. Starling has been doing just about everything right at the plate, but we can’t let his stellar offensive production this season overshadow what he’s been doing defensively, both now and in seasons past. His skills in the field have been major-league ready for several years now. The biggest hole in his skill set in previous years has been his hitting, but he has clearly made strides in the right direction offensively in 2019.
Starling has now spent parts of the last four seasons in AAA. He split the 2016 season with AA Northwest Arkansas (62 games) and AAA Omaha (47 games) where he slashed a combined .183/.235/.298. In 2017, he played in 80 games with AAA Omaha, slashing .248/.303/.381. In 2018, he was on the Injured List most of the season, playing only 11 games with AAA Omaha and 20 games total, slashing .296/.415/.611. Slowly but surely, Starling has been making progress when healthy.
The injury bug may very well be the one thing that continues to hold Starling back. He has missed quite a bit of time in his career due to injury, particularly in his oblique muscle. However, we are here to discuss why he deserves to be in Kansas City. Starling has played in 53 games at AAA Omaha in 2019, and is having an absolute career season offensively that shouldn’t be overlooked. He is hitting .347/.386/.479 with 66 hits and 24 RBIs. He is leading the Storm Chasers in batting average, and has been a complete and reliable player in every game he plays. Though in baseball we use this phrase lightly, it sometimes seems that he can do nothing wrong at the plate, and his defense is top-knotch. Check out this recent catch:
Now check out this outfield assist:
As good as Starling has been this season, he does have a few holes, as do all baseball players at any level. He has been hitting quite a few singles. Of his 64 hits in 2019, only 15 are extra base hits (9 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs.) In addition, he has not been walking as much as we’d like to see, with a 2.71 strike out-to-walk ratio. Both of these, if caught onto by any MLB pitcher, are significant holes that can be easily exploited.
But let’s not dwell on the negatives too much! The Royals are in the middle of a rebuild, and need to give their homegrown talent a chance. Like all professional athletes must, Starling has worked very hard, and is proving that he deserves a shot at playing in the big leagues. Right now we are being forced to watch poorly-performing free agents take up space as they struggle in Kansas City. Bubba Starling would be easy to plug into center field at Kauffman Stadium instead, and just might also provide slightly above replacement-level value to the Royals.
Starling will need to stay healthy and injury-free for the next few weeks, as the trade deadline is quickly approaching and the Royals are bound to try to deal free agents they signed to one-year deals. This will free up the necessary space on the 25-man roster for Starling. The idea that he could make his MLB debut before the end of June, or at the latest on or just before the trade deadline, is not far-fetched.
If you would like a little more in-depth information on Bubba Starling, please check out his recent interview with our own Shane Emery: