In his recent AL Central wrap-up of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus had some interesting quotes concerning the picks of the Kansas City Royals. Specifically his interview with a scout concerning No. 5 overall selection Bubba Starling brought the greatest range possible with any single prospect in the draft:
One scout put it best, saying, “In 10 years, we could be taking about Mickey Mantle, or talking about that Starling guy who never got out of Double-A.”
Suffice to say, Starling needed to have that kind of impact potential for the Royals to stray from their draft board that so many believed was focused on safe, polished pitchers who could move quickly through the minor league system. Possible names like Trevor Bauer (who went third), Dylan Bundy (fourth) and even Matt Barnes (19th) were predicted, but the Royals ended up taking Starling because of the incredible athleticism and tools that every single scout has raved about for months.
Consider the pressure on both sides to take or avoid Starling. He’s never faced any top notch competition on a regular basis as a Kansas-area high school student. He’s a Scott Boras client. He’s already committed to play quarterback for the University of Nebraska. It’s all projection at this point, which hasn’t worked so well for other recent high toolsy draft choices (a la San Diego Padres No. 3 selection of Donovan Tate).
Yet he’s also a local product and someone who fans will follow through the minor league system from bottom to top. And the ability to be such an impact centerfielder despite all of the aforementioned negatives just show how great some believe Starling can be — as in the Mickey Mantle comparisons. It might be a stretch to speak such things yet the reality is that Starling is among the rarest of talents.
Perhaps that’s the greatest thing about the Royals farm system. While some talents like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are already making their presence felt in Kansas City, the pressure is off of Dayton Moore to grab the sure thing in this year’s draft. And that ability to swing for the fences allows Moore to hope and pray that anything close to Starling’s projections come true.