If you need something to feel good about this afternoon, then the Kansas City Royals have you covered. They officially announced on Thursday that they were promoting outfielder Bubba Starling to the majors ahead of their second-half kickoff on Friday vs. the Detroit Tigers:
Starling, 27 in August, is best known for being the No. 5 pick in the loaded 2011 draft. He was — past tense — one of three players chosen in the top 30 who hadn’t yet reached the majors. (The others being No. 2 pick Danny Hultzen and No. 30 Levi Michael.) Starling was selected ahead of the likes of Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor, and Javier Baez, among other stars.
Starling was a worthy pick at the time. His explosive athleticism had enabled him to be a two-sport star in high school, and by signing he forewent an opportunity to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska. Starling was so well thought of as a prospect that in November 2011, Kevin Goldstein (now with the Houston Astros) wrote his perfect-world outcome was “the best player in baseball.” (Goldstein did note that such a scenario was “highly unlikely” to occur.)
Unfortunately, Starling has struggled to stay on the field and to refine his swing. He’d played in just 100 regular-season games over the last two years combined. In 72 Triple-A games this season, he’s hitting .310/.358/.448 with nine steals on 12 tries. His athleticism remains, and there’s a chance he latches on full-time as a speed-and-D reserve outfielder.
The Royals will announce a corresponding 40-man roster move on Friday. It reasons his could be the end of the road for Lucas Duda, who has a 43 OPS+ and offers no defensive value.