Name: Bubba Starling
Why He’s This High: Starling, the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, signed too late to play, but scouts love his potential. The first position player selected in the draft, he has explosive athleticism that gives him plus power potential and good defense in center field.
The Royals thought enough of the high school football star to give him $7.5 million to keep him away from the college gridiron.
While Starling is still quite raw, that’s understandable, since he spent so much time on football in high school. He needs to do a better job incorporating his lower half into his swing, but if he makes that adjustment, he’ll have even more power than he already does; it’s a testament to his current strength that he can clear fences with his current swing mechanics.
Why He’s This Low: It’s certainly quite plausible that Starling will grow into his considerable potential, but there’s a lot he’ll need to do to reach his ceiling, and he’s completely unproven as a professional. He’ll need to refine his swing, and like many high school hitters, he also tends to chase a lot of pitches outside the strike zone.
Defensively, Starling will need to prove he can stick in center field; while he’s got the athleticism and arm strength for right, moving there would put even more pressure on his bat.
It should be noted that Starling is somewhat old for a high school draftee; he’s well over a year older than #8 pick Francisco Lindor, for example. As Rany Jazayerli’s study on high school hitters shows, being older than most is not a good omen.
Conclusions: Starling has very impressive raw talent, but he has a long way to go. He could be a right-handed Curtis Granderson in center, or he could end up like a Delmon Young sort of player, whose eternal rawness compromises his considerable talent.
A good introduction to pro ball would put Starling among the game’s elite prospects. For now, he’s in this spot. Like most recent draftees, it’s tough to slot him in on a list like this, and it’s quite easy to justify almost any ranking for him, depending on how much you weight potential vs. track record.
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