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Should Bubba Starling move up to Double-A?

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Bubba Starling
Bubba Starling
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I was recently asked if it was time for the Kansas City Royals to promote outfield prospect Bubba Starling to Double-A. Let's explore that.

Starling been playing better lately, hitting .289/.346/.483 in his last 40 games for High-A Wilmington. However, his overall season line remains weak at .224/.302/.364 with 35 walks and 123 strikeouts in 393 at-bats. Even during his current hot stretch, his BB/K ratio remains poor at 9/44 in 149 at-bats over 40 games. He's shown more power recently but contact is still a significant issue here.

Other interesting splits: he's destroying left-handed pitching (.319/.402/.549) but has been very weak against right-handers (.195/.271/.308). Wilmington is a tough place to hit but his home/road splits aren't far apart, .640 OPS at home, .688 on the road, so you can't blame this all on park effects.

Scouting reports are in line with what we've heard before: he has all the physical tools but questions about his swing mechanics and aggressive approach remain paramount. On the positive side, reports on his defense are very enthusiastic and he's stolen 13 bases in 14 attempts.

He's been hitting better lately yes, but by itself I don't think the current run is enough to say he must move up; he isn't devastating the Carolina League to the point that a promotion is obviously needed. Indeed, his BB/K ratio in his last 10 games is pretty terrible at 1/12, a big caution flag for higher levels.

I think it likely that Starling would struggle if promoted to Double-A, but that doesn't mean that moving him up would necessarily be a mistake. Maybe he would respond to the challenge. Maybe he'd be completely overwhelmed, although even a short-term failure can teach a player something positive. I don't have any idea what the Royals are going to do; ultimately the decision could come down to issues that we can't see from the outside. Even factors like affiliate relations can play into a borderline decision.

Personally, as armchair farm director I would move him up for the last two weeks of the season to get his feet wet for next year, although I wouldn't have any great expectations for immediate success.