Outfielder Bubba Starling, a former two-sport star and top prospect, has announced his retirement via Facebook post, reports Alec Lewis of the Athletic. Mooted as a potential top overall pick in the 2011 draft, Starling never quite blossomed after the Royals nabbed him with the fifth overall selection. Starling retires with a career line of .204/.246/.298 line across 261 plate appearances in parts of two big league seasons.
Starling was long touted as a future building block for the Royals. Also a star quarterback in high school football star who’d committed to the University of Nebraska, he was seen as a raw bundle of virtually unparalleled athleticism in his draft class. He ripped through the Rookie-level Appalachian League in his first pro season (2012), and for the first two years of his pro career was widely considered among the game’s most promising farmhands.
Starling’s bat began to stall out in the low minors, however, and his offensive output never fully caught up with his off-the-charts raw tools. He looked to perhaps be turning a corner when he hit .310/.358/.448 through 72 games with Triple-A Omaha in 2019 and received his first call to the big leagues, but Starling produced a .204/.246/.298 batting line through 261 plate appearances in parts of two Major League seasons. Though his big league dreams may not have been realized, Starling did suit up as a member of Team USA’s Olympic roster this year, going 2-for-7 with a pair of RBIs and helping the United States to a Silver Medal.
While this week’s announcement closes the door on a tantalizing talent that captured the intrigue of Royals fans — and baseball fans at large — credit goes to Starling for grinding out a decade-long career in pro ball. The determination required to grind through eight seasons of sky-high expectations and make a Major League debut in 2019 is commendable in and of itself, and at 29 years of age, he could well have other opportunities in the game available to him in the coming years, should he choose to go that route.