I had the opportunity to watch Bubba Starling play in three games over the past two weeks. A senior a Gardner-Edgerton HS (KAN), he showed a combination of power, speed, and instincts that will likely make him a top 5 draft pick come June. Starling was 3-for-7 in with two home runs, a double, four walks (2 intentional) and one strikeout in the games I saw him.
He's a ball player who could have an influence on MLB betting odds some day.
Starling is a work in progress at the plate, but he does have exceptional raw talent. Blessed with strong wrists and solid bat speed, he shows plus pull-side power. He is a bit front-foot heavy at the plate, but he kept his hands back well enough to stay balanced through his swing. He does not use his lower half during his swing, basically relying on his hands to generate power. Starling's swing gets long at times, as he does not staying inside the ball consistently. This causes his bat to drag through the zone -- his hands tend to come around the baseball instead of inside of it.
Starling pulled every ball he put in play when I saw him. He also hit everything in the air -- he literally did not hit one ground ball in the three games I saw him. He still needs refinement with his swing mechanics and approach at the plate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him struggle initially in his transition to pro ball. Overall he did have good pitch selection at the plate with pitches down, but struggled to lay off pitches up in the zone.
Starling is a tremendous athlete with a chiseled frame. He is tall (6-foot-5), lean (215 pounds) and has an extremely athletic body with plenty of room to fill out. He shows plus speed for a big man, as I clocked him at 4.31 seconds on the turn at first base. He gets to full acceleration easily after his first step, and shows very good natural instincts as a baserunner.
In the outfield, Starling glides to balls effortlessly, using his long strides to cover plenty of ground in center field. He takes good routes, and has smooth clean actions in the outfield. He did show plus arm strength, but he has a slow release and poor footwork upon release. This is not too concerning as it's something that could be easily corrected with repetition and instruction. Should he get too big to play center field, he has enough arm strength to play right field.
Overall, Starling displayed outstanding raw talent. He flashed five-tool potential, though his weakest tool is currently his hit tool. He didn’t show the ability to use the whole field and still needs some refinement mechanically with his swing. Starling expanded his strike-zone quite a bit (up), but that is a common occurrence with young hitters.
Starling is your classic high-ceiling/low-floor type of guy. His overall skill set will make it very hard for organizations to pass on him. Having dedicated a lot of his time and efforts to football, Starling does show natural baseball instincts on the field, which is a huge plus. He makes everything look very easy, due to his natural, God-given talent. Starling is also revered for his hard work and exceptional make-up.
Scouting Directors and GMs could only imagine what Starling could be if and when he gives all of his attention to baseball. He is a big question mark leading into the draft. After sitting out three weeks nursing a quad injury, he has like planted his name back near the top of draft boards. He could fall to the back of the top 10, due to bonus demands, but there’s a chance that Starling get some consideration as the 2011 draft’s No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick.
Follow Mike Diaz on Twitter @mikedeez.