Bubba Starling Rumors

AL Notes: Starling, Capuano, Rollins

The career of 2011 No. 5 overall pick Bubba Starling hasn’t gone according to plan, but the Royals remain patient with the now-22-year-old, Alan Eskew writes for Baseball America (subscription required). “He’s got the type of body and athleticism that will be able to play for a long, long time,” says assistant GM J.J. Picollo. “So whether he gets to the big leagues at 24, 25, 26—that’s not really a factor because he’s going to be able to play for a long time.” Starling hit .218/.304/.338 while striking out 150 times in 549 plate appearances for Class A+ Wilmington in 2014. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • Once Chris Capuano recovers from a quad strain, he’ll be a serviceable pitcher who provides the Yankees with flexibility, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues writes. Capuano will miss the start of the season and might not have a rotation spot waiting for him when he returns, but he can also pitch out of the bullpen, as he did last season for the Red Sox and once did on occasion for the Brewers. Axisa suggests Capuano might work well in a swingman role. As a pitcher who can work in a variety of roles without worries, he could provide reasonable value on his $5MM contract.
  • Among the players the Mariners sent to minor-league camp today were lefties Lucas Luetge and Rafael Perez. That leaves David Rollins, a Rule 5 pick from the Astros, in competition with Joe Saunders and Tyler Olson to join Charlie Furbush as the Mariners’ second lefty out of the bullpen, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets. Rollins has pitched well so far in Spring Training, striking out seven batters and walking none in his first 6 1/3 innings.

Quick Hits: Declining Prospects, Waivers, Phillies, Valdespin

In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN, Keith Law examines some of the prospects whose stock has fallen this season due to poor performance and diminished tools. Cleveland's Trevor Bauer and Kansas City's Bubba Starling are the first mentioned on Law's list of eight. Here's more from around the league…

  • Rangers general manager Jon Daniels appeared on the Inside Pitch show with MLB Network Radio's Jim Bowden today and told him that teams are waiting longer to place players on waivers in August in recent years. Teams are waiting for there to be fewer buyers before attempting to sneak players through waivers, he elaborated (Twitter links).
  • The bullpen will once again be an area of focus for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. this offseason, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Gelb examines the struggles the Phillies have had in developing relievers, noting that Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo have been the only two reliable bullpen arms developed in-house by the Phils over the past decade.
  • The Mets have given no consideration to releasing troubled utility man Jordany Valdespin in light of his 50-game suspension and recent temper issues, GM Sandy Alderson told MLB.com's Anthony DiComo (Twitter link).
  • Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke with new Diamondbacks reliever Matt Stites about his inclusion in last week's Ian Kennedy trade. Stites is likely done for the season after an emergency appendectomy, but the Snakes have high hopes that he will be a big factor in their bullpen for years to come, writes Piecoro.

Prospect Rumor Roundup: First Half Disappointments

We're just past the halfway mark of the 2013 Major League Baseball season and well past the midway point of the Minor League Baseball season. While taking stock of the top prospects from around baseball, a number of names appear in the "disappointment column," which is not surprising given the general volatility of young players. Below, we take a look at some of the prospects having disappointing seasons, as well as some educated guesses as to what might be ailing them.

Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox: Barnes' season hasn't been as bad as some of the other players on this list but it's still been a disappointing 2013 for the right-handed hurler. The former first-round pick was expected to zoom through the minor leagues and possibly even help the big league club this season, but he currently has a 5.32 ERA with 78 hits allowed in 67 2/3 innings at the Double-A level. As the Boston Globe's Julian Benbow explained, Barnes has been working on fleshing out his secondary pitches this season so he doesn't have to rely so heavily on his low-to-mid-90s fastball.

Trevor Bauer, RHP, Indians: Bauer is the perfect example of the volatility of prospects. Selected third overall in the 2011 amateur draft, the right-hander out of UCLA dominated competition during his first taste of pro ball but the wheels fell off the wagon towards the end of 2012. Bauer's issues — both on and off the field — lead to an offseason trade and continued into 2013. His results at Triple-A have been less than ideal. After his most recent disastrous big league start, the young pitcher was returned to the minors and — according to a piece by Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal — he may focus on pitching exclusively from the stretch as a starter.

Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels: Los Angeles doesn't have a very deep minor league system whatsoever so when their top prospects stumble, it hurts them more than most organizations. The young third baseman is hitting just .215/.280/.309 at Double-A this season and some adjustments he made during the springtime could be to blame for his slow start. As Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com explained, the switch-hitting Cowart quieted his stance and eliminated the leg kick from the left side of the plate. He's still hitting just .198/.261/.275 versus right-handed pitching so clearly there are more wrinkles to iron out.

David Dahl, OF, Rockies: Like Bauer, Dahl's value is down as a result of well-documented off-the-field actions and maturity concerns. But those aren't the only things that have gone wrong for the outfielder in 2013. In early May, Dahl suffered what was expected to be a pulled hamstring while running the bases. About a week later, though, the prospect revealed on Twitter that his hamstring had been torn and was much more serious than first reported. That halted his season after 10 games (He got off to a late start because of the maturity issues mentioned above) and he hasn't appeared in a game since that time. His timetable for a return to the game is still up in the air.

Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds: Hamilton, 22, hasn't had a terrible year but he has yet to build off of the momentum he created last season when he hit .323/.413/.439 in High-A ball and stole 155 bases between two minor league clubs. Promoted to Triple-A to begin 2013 after spending just 50 games at the Double-A level, the speedy Hamilton has struggled to find his footing at the plate. On the plus side, the shortstop-turned-outfielder has nabbed 50 bases in just 80 games. His stolen base total could become much higher once he improves upon his .300 on-base percentage.

Courtney Hawkins, OF, White Sox: Hawkins has experienced a lot of struggles in his first full professional season. After hitting a combined .284 between three levels during last season's debut, he's batting just .191/.273/.485 with 95 strikeouts in 55 games during 2013. Scott Merkin of MLB.com talked to Hawkins regarding the learning curve he's experienced in High-A ball and how he plans to come out ahead.

Bubba Starling, OF, Royals: Starling opened 2013 with huge expectations surrounding him, but he hit just .195/.263/.379 with a massive strikeout rate in April. As Danny Wild of MiLB.com explained, things got so bad that Starling was sent to have his eyes examined for possible LASIK surgery in May — similar to what the Rangers did with third base prospect Mike Olt. Dick Kaegel of MLB.com later updated the story to report that the outfield prospect underwent the procedure on May 16. In June, after the eye surgery, Starling improved to hit .250/.327/.369 for the month, but he continued to strike out at a similar rate. He also hit jut one home run in 24 games. Clearly, there is more work to be done.

Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals: During the first three months of the year, Zimmer posted an ERA of more than 5.00 despite showing the same strong repertoire that caused him to be chosen fifth overall during the 2012 amateur draft. Thankfully, the right-hander may have finally turned a corner in July. He's posted a 2.77 ERA with no walks and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings. On the season, he's now whiffed 103 batters in 84 2/3 innings of work. Jonathan Raymond of MiLB.com spoke to Zimmer, who stated that he's finally becoming comfortable with his pitching mechanics, which is in turn allowing him to provide more consistent command.

A number of prospects have also suffered significant loss in value due to serious injuries. The list of walking wounded include: Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles; Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets; Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners; Casey Kelly, RHP, Padres; Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Rays; and Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Cubs.

Draft Notes: Austin, Pirates, Hultzen

The deadline for signing draft picks has passed, but there’s still lots of news about 2011 draftees. The latest: 

  • Padres draftee Brett Austin turned down $1.5MM from San Diego to play for North Carolina State, according to Tom Krasovic of Inside the Padres (Twitter link). San Diego selected the catcher with the 54th overall pick in the draft.
  • As Jim Callis of Baseball America shows, the Pirates, Nationals and Royals lead all MLB teams in bonus expenditures from 2007-11. Four AL East teams – everyone but the Yankees – are next on the list. 
  • Callis also details this year's expenditures, with the Pirates, Nationals and Royals again leading the way. 
  • 2011 draftees Gerrit Cole, Bubba Starling and Danny Hultzen obtained three of the top five bonuses in draft history, according to Callis.

Royals Notes: Cabrera, Francoeur, Starling

The Royals signed Jeff Francoeur to a two-year, $13.5MM extension today and the deal has inspired lots of chatter. Here are the latest Royals-related links…

  • Royals GM Dayton Moore sidestepped a question about Melky Cabrera's future in Kansas City, according to MLB.com's Adam Holt. "That's a fair question, it's a question that should be asked," Moore said. "But right now, I'd just as soon not go down that road right now." The Royals control Cabrera's rights through arbitration in 2012 and don't appear to be nearing an extension with him.
  • C. Trent Rosecrans of CBSSports.com says $13.5MM for two years of Francoeur is "probably a bit of an overpayment, but it's hardly cripling" for the Royals who benefit from the outfielder's production.
  • FanGraphs' Eno Sarris agrees, writing that the extension will not cripple the Royals or suppress any prospects on the brink ot the Major Leagues.
  • Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com says we should expect the Royals to add a veteran starting pitcher this offseason (Twitter link).
  • The Royals say they started following Bubba Starling's athletic pursuits three years ago, according to the Kansas City Star, which re-publishes a Terez A. Paylor story from 2008 detailing the achievements of the eventual Royals draft pick. Kansas City selected the high schooler fourth overall in June and signed him to a $7.5MM bonus Monday.

Quick Hits: Nationals, Ichiro, Astros, Starling

On this date ten years ago, John Smoltz struck out four batters and picked up his first regular season save. Then, on this date in 2009, the Red Sox released Smoltz, who had an 8.33 ERA at the time. The potential Hall of Famer went on to provide seven solid starts for the Cardinals later that season and hasn't pitched in the Majors since. Here are today's links…

  • Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that GM Mike Rizzo did a "fantastic job" to sign Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin, Matt Purke and others on Monday night. Lerner believes the Nats now have one of the best farm systems in the game.
  • Just because the Yankees signed Derek Jeter to a $51MM deal last winter doesn’t mean the Mariners should extend Ichiro Suzuki, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. Arguing that Ichiro deserves Jeter-like treatment doesn’t make sense to Baker “for reasons that start on the field and end off of it.” The Mariners outfielder is under contract for $17MM in 2012.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN.com identifies five players we shouldn't give up on, including Pedro Alvarez and Ian Stewart.
  • No one at the MLB owners meetings is questioning whether Jim Crane, the incoming Astros owner, is a viable candidate to take over the team, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter).
  • Top Royals pick Bubba Starling said at a press conference today that his offense could still improve because he played three sports in high school and hasn't had the chance to devote himself to hitting (Associated Press link via ESPN.com).

Royals Sign Bubba Starling

The Royals have signed fourth overall pick Bubba Starling, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). ESPN.com's Keith Law hears Starling is getting a $7.5MM bonus (Twitter link). The Boras Corporation represents the high schooler, who had to be lured away from a football commitment to Nebraska. The Royals add some local talent to their deep farm system today, as Starling is a Royals fan from Gardner, Kansas. 

Tim Dierkes explained Major League deals for draft picks earlier today. You can keep track of which top picks have signed with MLBTR's list.

Draft Links: Dodgers, Springer, Boras, Fisher

We're a week away from the August 15 deadline for MLB teams to sign their 2011 draft picks.  Here's the latest on a few signings, a few players still in negotiations and a few players who are going to college…

  • The Dodgers have agreed to terms with sixth-rounder Scott Barlow and 10th-rounder Tyler Ogle, reports Jim Callis of Baseball America.  (Twitter links)  Barlow, a right-hander who had committed to Fresno State, will earn a $150K bonus.  Ogle, a product of the University of Oklahoma, received a $100K bonus.
  • George Springer is expected to sign the Astros, tweets Stephen Goff of the Houston Examiner.  Goff said he would be surprised if the Astros didn't ink their first-round pick, selected 11th overall.
  • Right-hander Jack Armstrong, Houston's third-round selection, talks to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart about his elbow problems and how he isn't worried about the signing deadline.  The piece also notes that Springer passed his physical with the team last week.  Springer and Armstrong are the only two unsigned players among the Astros' first 13 draft picks. 
  • "The Royals will be offering the biggest bonus in franchise history" to Bubba Starling, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star, and while "most observers expect a contract to be signed…there is just enough in [agent Scott] Boras’ history and confidence to make everyone unsure."  Mellinger also briefly details Boras' background and his dealings with the Royals over the last several years.
  • Rangers officials tell MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan that they don't expect sixth-round pick Derek Fisher to sign a contract.  Fisher, the Pennsylvania high school player of the year, has a commitment to the University of Virginia and "his asking price exceeds what the Rangers are willing to pay."
  • The Brewers officially announced the signing of second-rounder Jorge Lopez, reports MLB.com's Audrey Snyder.  We heard last week that Milwaukee had agreed to terms with Lopez and fifth-rounder Michael Reed, though no final word has yet come on Reed's deal.
  • The Phillies have signed seventh-round pick Kenny Giles to a contract with a $250K bonus, reports Baseball America's Jim Callis (Twitter link).  Giles, a high-schooler who had committed to the University of Arizona, "has touched 99 mph with his fastball."
  • Marlins second-round pick Adam Conley and Diamondbacks seventh-rounder Ben Roberts will "definitely sign," reports Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA, while Yankees sixth-round selection Jake Cave is "about 95 percent" signed.  (Twitter links)
  • Rogers also tweets that Taylor Ard (a 25th-round pick for the Red Sox) and Derek Jones (the Orioles' 13th-rounder) will not sign.  Both players have committed to attend Washington State.
  • WEEI.com's Alex Speier has an update on the status of every Red Sox pick from the first 10 rounds of the draft, including both signed and unsigned players.

Quick Hits: Nimmo, Indians, Rays, Starling, Pomeranz

Links for Saturday evening..

  • Without directly saying so, Mets GM Sandy Alderson intimated that it's no big deal that first-round pick Brandon Nimmo remains unsigned, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • After dealing right-hander Alex White and left-hander Drew Pomeranz, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer looks at the arms that remain in the Indians' farm system.
  • Suddenly, the Rays find themselves with a surplus of catchers, writes MLB.com's Bill Chastain.
  • Royals first-round pick Bubba Starling is not on Nebraska football's official 105-man roster and won't practice at NU until he decides on his baseball future, tweets Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star.
  • Indians prospect Drew Pomeranz officially transferred from Double-A Akron to the Arizona League Indians today, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.  Pomeranz will work out in Arizona until he can officially be dealt to the Rockies on August 15th.
  • The newest member of the Marlins Alfredo Amezaga has always been known as utility man but reports are that he's gained a bit of weight and is better suited for either second or third base rather than shortstop, writes Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.

Draft Notes: Swihart, Camarena, Starling

A few draft items of note, as Ross Detwiler, the first player of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft to reach the big leagues, exits his start in Colorado …

  • The Red Sox hosted first-round draft pick Blake Swihart at Fenway Park prior to tonight's game against the Indians, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Swihart, the No. 26 overall pick, took batting practice, although he remains unsigned. The switch-hitting catcher has committed to the University of Texas. This sort of workout is common, so it may not indicate that an agreement is imminent, although it can't hurt, either.
  • Likewise, the Yankees worked out 20th-round pick Dan Camarena, a right-handed prep pitcher from San Diego, writes Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues. Though he was taken later in the draft, Camarena was actually ranked No. 138 among all prospects prior to the draft by Baseball America, according to Axisa, so it looks like the Yanks will have to go well over slot to get him signed up.
  • Royals first-rounder Bubba Starling, the No. 5 pick overall, told Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star that "it's getting really stressful now," in reference to the approaching Aug. 15 deadline for draft picks to sign. Starling is currently partaking in football practice with Nebraska, where he's committed to play. Most draft experts think he'll sign with the Royals, however.