The Legend of Bubba Starling has been circulating for a while. He's easily got the most cache of any high school player this side of Dylan Bundy, with his pitching, speed, and hitting ability. Everyone salivates of him, even with his commitment to the University of Nebraska.
The trouble is that Starling isn't as polished as you'd expect from a guy generating this much hype. He's a good hitter, but he's got some flaws there. He's very fast and should have a plus too there, but it's not clear if his power will ever translate to the baseball game. He's got a good arm, which should play well anywhere in the outfield.
But, it's also clear that Starling is the best athlete in the high school class this year. Everyone...and I mean EVERYONE...thinks that he's the best of the best in sheer athleticism, which is why he'll get drafted in the top 10. This goes back to Billy Beane's philosophy in Moneyball, where he said he didn't want to draft guys who "look good in jeans." That's Starling, he looks good at just about everything he does. His biggest problem is he needs polish.
That'll come with time, but I do wonder if he's more like a football player who's flirting with baseball. Like John Klima says below, is Starling a John Elway or Drew Henson? Those are scary comps and I'm not sure I'd take a guy like that if I were a scouting director, since he could easily get you fired if he doesn't pan out.
A speedy center fielder who hits somewhat with no power is about the floor here. Maybe someone like Steve Finley or Mark Kotsay are good comps here for his floor. That all depends on how Starling's bat adjusts to the pros. If he can't hit well with wooden bats against the more advanced pitchers in the minor leagues, Starling will struggle to even reach the majors. Maybe a Brian Bogusevic clone is a better floor for Starling.
The comparison being thrown around most for him is Drew Stubbs. If Starling can put it all together, he's a five-tool center fielder who will play good defense. That's why he'll be taken in the Top 10, because teams see that potential in him, not because he's shown that yet. Stubbs, though, seems like a good, realistic ceiling.
Will thepick him? If so, where?
I doubt Starling will get past the Cubs at No. 9, which means he won't be available for Houston. If he is there, it'll be a tough call between him and some of the more polished or bigger-upside arms like Archie Bradley or Matt Barnes. Plus, the Astros already have a ton of outfield depth, but I'm not sure that will discourage them from taking someone with Starling's talent.
Where is he projected to go right now?
Keith Law had him at No. 9 to the Cubs.
Perfect Game USA had him at No. 9 to the Cubs.
John Sickels had him at No. 9 to the Cubs.
Bibliography (Scouting Reports and video)
Below the jump
Starling is the best athlete in the 2011 draft. As a pitcher, he'd be a potential first-round pick as a 6-foot-5, 195-pound righthander with a fastball that touches 95 mph. He's also a gifted quarterback who earned a scholarship from Nebraska. Despite his ability on the mound and on the gridiron, his future is as a five-tool center fielder who resembles Drew Stubbs.
Starling is the best athlete, bar none, in this year's draft, and one of the best in any recent draft. If you want five tools, this is the place to shop. Starling has explosive bat speed and above-average raw power that will become plus in time; right now, he tends to drift forward at the plate, robbing himself of a little power because his weight is on his front foot too early. He's a plus-plus runner who led all players at last year's Area Code Games in 60 times, and it translates to easy range in center.
Derek Starling has it all – a nickname, his own baseball card, athleticism, a college ride to Nebraska, some agent I’ve never heard of, and a high price tag. What he also has, based on the look I had at him in Summer 2010, is a striking resemblance in body, career path and swing to John Elway and Drew Henson. Historian and scholar that I am, let me just get out my Baseball Encyclopedia to see how those professional baseball careers fared.