Bubba Starling

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Derek Starling

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Biographical Information[edit]

Bubba Starling was the first position player drafted in the 2011 amateur draft.

Starling hit .339/.474/.532 for Team USA's junior squad in 2010. In the 2010 World Junior Championship, he hit .350/.567/.500 with 10 walks in 7 games. In the 5th/6th place game, he socked a 3-run homer off the Netherlands' Jerremyh Angela. He finished 5th in the event in OBP (between Tomas Sykora and Francisco Lindor) and led in walks. A two-sport star, Starling ran for 31 touchdowns and 2,377 yards as a high school senior quarterback. Overall, he produced 97 touchdowns in high school. He was also All-State in basketball. He had a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska when the Kansas City Royals took the five-tool player fifth in the 2011 amateur draft. He was the first position player taken, following pitchers Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer and Dylan Bundy. It was the first time in draft history no position player had gone in the top four. He was considered a very tough sign due to his offer to play quarterback for the Cornhuskers, but the Royals came to an agreement with him on the final day for signing 2011 draftees, August 15th. He agreed to a deal worth a guaranteed $7.5 million. The scouts were Blake Davis, Lonnie Goldberg and Mitch Webster.

A hamstring injury sidelined Starling for early 2012, then he made his pro debut with the Burlington Royals on June 29th. Hitting third and playing center field, he went 0 for 5 with a walk and a run in a 14-2 win over the Johnson City Cardinals. After 12 games, he was at .273/.429/.500 with 9 walks, 2 home runs, 10 runs and 10 RBI. He finished the year at .275 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 53 games. He hit his highest prospect ranking before the 2013 season, when he was #35 according to Baseball America. He spent that year with the Lexington Legends of the South Atlantic League, hitting .241/.321/.398 in 125 games, with 13 homers and 63 RBIs. Things then went real sour for him in 2014 when he fell to .218 in 132 games for the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Carolina League, with just 9 homers and 52 RBIs.

It would take him quite some time to recover some prospect luster, but the Royals kept him around all this time. Injuries took their toll, as he was limited to 80 games in 2017 and 20 in 2018, and that was after a disastrous 2016 season when he hit just .183 in 109 games between the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals and the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers. He did hit .296 in the brief time when he was healthy in 2018, with 4 homers in 54 at-bats. It was a small sample, but it was promising, and in 2019 he confirmed that he had turned a corner, hitting a solid .310 with 7 homers and and 38 RBIs in 72 games during the first half at Omaha. He was now 26, but the Royals figured it was time to give him a shot at the big time.

He finally made his major league debut on July 12, 2019, a full eight years after having been a top draft pick. It was extremely rare for such a high draft pick to take that long to make it to the Show, and even rarer for one to do so with the team that drafted him originally! In his debut, he played center field and went 0 for 3 with a walk, also scoring a run, in an 8-5 win over the Detroit Tigers.


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