That the Pirates have thought about taking high schooler Bubba Starling over better-known, better-established college players such as Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole with the first overall pick next month tells you the outfielder has talent. What kind of potential does he have? What kinds of risks would selecting him entail? Here’s what you need to know about Starling, a sure first rounder and a possible future star.
In the words of MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, the 18-year-old is a ‘true five-tool’ player who could make an impact at a premium position. Baseball America calls him the best athlete in the draft, a five-tool center fielder with enough strength, bat speed and leverage to produce above-average power.
Not only does Starling have power potential to spare and the ability to hit for average, he is an outstanding defender in center field thanks to his range and arm. Mayo says he projects as a more refined version of Drew Stubbs – high praise considering that the underrated Stubbs has become an excellent player.
There’s a catch, though, and it’s not the quad injury that sidelined Starling for almost a month earlier this year. He is a two-sport star whose athleticism is hard to match. Some say he can toss a football 50 yards from his knees and baseball scouts aren't the only ones who have noticed; Nebraska wants Starling to play quarterback and center field on a scholarship, so he has leverage.
Scott Boras, Starling’s advisor, will presumably be asking for more than ‘slot’ money to lure Starling away from football and a college scholarship, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. ESPN.com's Keith Law suggests it will take a bonus of over $5MM, but with the high asking price comes lots of potential, so some team figures to pounce on Starling early on.