Starling Brings Premium Athleticism, Hometown Flair To Royals

KANSAS CITY—When the Royals drafted Bubba Starling fifth overall, they kept the draft's best athlete close to home.

Starling hit better than .500 with 17 home runs his junior and senior seasons at Gardner-Edgerton (Kan.) High, a Kansas City suburb. In 1985, the Royals selected Brian McRae, the son of Royals Hall of Famer Hal McRae, with the 17th overall pick from Blue Springs (Mo.) High.

There are similarities between the two. McRae was the Royals' centerfielder from 1990-94. He was also a two-sport athlete and had a football scholarship to Kansas. Starling is a centerfielder and has signed to play quarterback at Nebraska.

"We got the player we wanted," Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg said. "We got the most electric athlete and player in the draft and it just happened to be in our backyard. He's got raw power. He's got speed. He's got a plus arm. You name it, pick one. He's got a lot of them."

While he has a 95 mph fastball, the Royals picked him as an outfielder. Starling opted not to pitch his senior season.

"I thought he was much better as a position player," Goldberg said. "Obviously, he was a prospect as a pitcher if he wanted to do that. He's gifted, a center-diamond player and a chance to hit 25-plus home runs and that was a better road for him."

Goldberg said before this year he had seen Starling play more football and basketball than baseball.

"You don't see athletes like this that's playing baseball," general manager Dayton Moore said. "And his instincts combined with his athleticism are special. A lot of times you see players who are athletic, but they lack instincts. This guy is athletic and has instincts as well.

"We got the player who we felt was the most-impact position player in the draft and is going to be the guy who helps us win here in Kansas City when he arrives."

Moore said he is confident the Royals would sign Starling. Nebraska's football team starts practice July 10, so that could speed the process up on signing Starling. By being a two-sport athlete, the Royals could spread out Starling's bonus over five years.

"I'm blessed, but there are a lot of options for the future, as far as signing or going up to Nebraska," Starling said. "I've still got a lot of stuff to figure out. When it comes closer, we're going to figure that stuff out."

Starling, whose first name is Derek, played for USA Baseball's Under-18 team last summer, hitting .339/.474/.532 with three home runs, 20 runs and 12 RBIs.


• Double-A Northwest Arkansas lost one top prospect but regained another. Lefthander John Lamb, who was the Royals 2010 minor league pitcher of the year, had season-ending Tommy John surgery June 3. Outfielder Wil Myers, who had been on the disabled list with a knee infection, returned to the Naturals lineup.

• The Royals acquired righthander Andrew Pizziconi, 19, who is from Italy, from the Diamondbacks for catcher Lucas May. Pizziconi was assigned to Rookie-level Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League.