As the MLB All-Star game gets closer, the Royals’ season continues to remain in the basement. Despite some solid wins over the past couple weeks, the Royals still have the second worst record in the MLB entering Wednesday’s games. They’re 14 games back from the wild card and 23.5 games behind the Twins. With the Royals about to begin a weekend series against Minnesota, that gap could grow larger.
As the team approaches another losing season just four years removed from the World Series title, fans need a spark. As players like Jorge Bonifacio and Nicky Lopez get called up and look to help the struggling Royals, one player remains in Omaha that could help spark some fan excitement.
In 2011, the Royals used the fifth overall selection in the draft to take Bubba Starling. The athletic standout from Gardner-Edgerton was widely considered the most athletic in the draft.
Two months after the draft, Starling signed a $7.5 million contract. At the time, it was the second largest signing bonus in the history of the draft after Gerrit Cole got $8 million for going No. 1 to Pittsburgh in the same draft. Starling is joined by Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Casey Mize (2018) for the second highest. Cole has turned into a solid starting pitcher with the Pirates and Astros. Strasburg came out of college with a lot of hype and has lived up to it with three all-star selections, a Silver Slugger award and recognition as one of the NL’s best pitchers. The jury is still out on Mize. But the Detroit pick is already up to AA, where he threw a no-hitter in his first start for the Erie SeaWolves earlier this year. We might be seeing the pitcher coming in for the Tigers in the next couple of years.
And then there is Starling. After picking professional baseball over playing football and baseball at Nebraska, Starling is still in the minor leagues. Injuries and just poor play has kept the pick from being able to make a name for himself. Starling’s name consistently shows up on the lists of biggest draft busts in draft history. All seemed lost for Starling’s chances with the Royals after injuries cut the season short to just 20 games. He was non-tendered last November and became a free agent. But he resigned with the Royals a few weeks later a minor league deal and was assigned to start 2019 with the Omaha Storm Chasers in AAA.
Starling’s 2019 season is off to a strong start. Through 58 games, the 26-year-old outfielder is hitting .325 with 68 hits and 29 runs. He also has 27 RBI and five home runs.
With Starling having his best season, why not call him up to the Royals?
While the Royals need pitching help more than anything, another young player hitting well at the plate can help mask the pitching issues that have plagued Kansas City for the past two years.
But like Lopez getting a special moment last week hitting a home run in Omaha at the ballpark he played college ball in, Starling making a start for the Royals could be a memorable moment from what looks to be an unmemorable season.
With Kauffman being about 40 miles away from where Starling grew up, the hometown kid making an appearance would surely get some excitement from fans. The team will need to make some moves to get him up to the 40-man roster. But if KC really wants to do this, we could see some trades coming. We saw it last year with Jon Jay and Kelvin Herrera shipped off last June. Maybe some strong play in the coming weeks by Billy Hamilton can cause teams to call. With Hamilton only having a one-year deal, why not ship off the rental for someone who is finally starting to prove himself? If Starling’s injury issues are gone it might as well be the move for the Royals.
Luke Peterson is the sports editor for the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org