When a team becomes lifeless and swallowed up by the countless losses piling one after the other, it’s said a spark is needed. Injecting a sense of excitement or change surrounding the team and fan base is often times the result of that spark. At the moment, the Royals are atrocious. Losers in 43 of their 62 games, and 11 of their last 13, it’s clear Kansas City is in need of something positive to mask the inevitable trek to the worst record in baseball. But in the belly of all the deficient performances, there is a way the Royals can earn tons of respect from the fans and their farm system for that matter.
Before the club concluded a three-game series against Texas at home back from May 14-16, there was the belief by some in the organization they could claim the second Wild-Card spot. With the surging top of the lineup and strengthening bullpen, the nine-game deficit from that spot didn’t seem all too insurmountable. However, 20 games later, Kansas City’s 4-16 record has put them well out of reach for the division (22.5 games back) and Wild Card (14 games back). Now with perhaps their best All-star candidate in Hunter Dozier on the shelf suffering from an oblique strain, trudging through a six-game losing skid, and tied for the worst record in baseball, let it be a time when the playoff nonsense ends.
So there’s no better time the Royals will ever possess to reward the former #5 overall pick Bubba Starling. In case you haven’t kept tabs on Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate, the Omaha Stormchasers, Starling is turning in a season the Royals foresaw him having five to six years ago. In 48 games, he is slashing .345/.385/.480 in addition to smacking four home runs and driving in 24. His average currently ranks seventh in all of the Pacific Coast League and his defense has gotten him national recognition among major league outlets.
It has been a grueling journey for the now 26-year old Starling, but that’s the thing - he is only 26 years of age. If the Royals so decided to purchase the contract of Starling, he would become the youngest of four outfielders on the team.
However, here’s the fork in the road. At the moment, Starling is not on the 40-man roster and is blocked by Billy Hamilton in Kansas City. And as it seems, there doesn’t look to be any true rumors swarming around the 28-year old speedster. But let us not forget, last season the Royals dealt outfielder Jon Jay on June 6th while the club sat at 21-40. Not two weeks later, they boxed up Kelvin Herrera and shipped him to Washington.
The point is, general manager Dayton Moore hasn’t necessarily waited to the deadline to deal some of his talents. Usually in the case of player with the abilities of Billy Hamilton, his numbers are not going to drastically increase and net a haul at the deadline. Therefore when he becomes hot at the plate, the best chance to strike an agreement with another organization is at that time. Hamilton is a career .245 hitter with a .628 OPS. Although through June 6th, he is posting a .234 average with 11 stolen bases and six RBI’s. He also has has hit safely in 16 of his last 22 games, raising his average from .196 to .234. At best, a contender will be monitoring his recent surge and above average defense closely in hopes of adding him as a fourth outfielder.
On the Royals side, receiving any kind of prospect or two in return would be satisfactory. At the moment, a team such as the Cubs, who claimed Carlos Gonzalez off waivers to be the fourth outfielder, rank dead last in baseball in stolen bases per game at 0.23. Hamilton played in the National League Central for six years and for what it’s worth, he’s a career .255 hitter at Wrigley Field in 163 plate appearances.
Regardless of finding a possible suitor, the Royals front office shouldn’t be asking much more from Starling in terms of proving himself. If a one-year rental is the player blocking your hottest hitting prospect on a last place club, then that’s a problem in its own thing. The fact of the matter is Hamilton won’t have a future in Kansas City but Starling might. This town has been waiting eight years for the man they call Bubba to dig in the box at Kauffman Stadium. Of course with his past history of freak injuries during his career years, the Royals may be hesitant in trading away a durable centerfielder to give a rookie the job who hasn’t played more than 110 games in a season in the last five years. But there are counters if this incident were to occur. Whit Merrifield could move to center and Jorge Soler back to right. Ryan O’hearn could ditch the first base gig to start in the outfield. Hunter Dozier debuted with the club playing in right field and Terrance Gore is capable of stealing a couple starts here and there.
The point is, worrying about Starling’s durability shouldn’t keep him down in Triple-A where he clearly doesn’t belong any more. Keeping him off the 40-man isn’t much of an excuse either as players such as Lucas Duda, Jorge Bonifacio, Ben Livley, Tim Hill, and Heath Fillmyer all remain on it. Remove one of them and the likelihood they clear waivers and return to the minor leagues is high. Billy Hamilton is going to be traded. There is no and, ifs, or buts about it. It’s all a matter of is it going to be now or one month from now? When a guy like Starling is banging on the door, the front office may have no choice than to act now rather than later. Bubba may not be the spark for this season, but he sure as hell is the best chance to ignite something. .
Is it time to call up Bubba Starling?
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