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Bubba’s The Pick

In yesterday’s first round of the first year player draft, the Kansas City Royals selected Bubba Starling. I’m not going to pretend to know enough about amateur athletics to give a scouting report on him beyond what I’ve heard, so this is probably going to end up as a bit of regurgitation of what a lot of you have already heard. Before I get into anything else, Bubba Starling has the tools to become one of the best players in the game. He can run, he can hit, he can field, and he can apparently play quarterback. He’s a legitimate five tool baseball player who will need a little seasoning, but if everything breaks out, he has a chance to be one of the best players in Royals history. That’s getting ahead of myself, though.

In addition to being supremely talented, Starling is from the Kansas City area. I’m not saying that’s a reason to take a player, but it definitely doesn’t hurt the argument if you’re trying to sell him as the right pick in the fifth spot in the draft. There was a time a few years back when local players were asking the Royals not to draft them. I make fun of the Royals organization a lot, but sometimes I need to take a step back and remember the roots of the organization as recently as five or six years ago. For a local player to not want to play for his hometown team, you know something has to be wrong. Now, though, the Royals are working on rebuilding the pipeline of Kansas City area talent. Last year, they drafted Jason Adam and this year they’ve drafted Starling so far.

The draft prior to the Royals pick sort of led the Royals down the natural path of picking Starling. The Pirates selected Gerrit Cole with the first pick, but the Mariners threw a curveball. They were expected to take Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, but instead took lefty Danny Hultzen. Apparently there were enough concerns with Rendon’s injury issues that the Mariners passed on him. The Mariners taking Rendon would have allowed one of the three remaining top notch arms to slip to the Royals at the number five pick. At that point, the Royals would have had a huge decision to make between Starling and whoever remained. As it turned out, they did not have to make that decision. Trevor Bauer and Dylan Bundy went to the Diamondbacks and Orioles respectively, which wiped out two player to whom the Royals had been connected. Bud Selig walked to the podium and announced that the Royals had selected Starling who is from Gardner and that was that.

A quick side note about Bud Selig. I may have reconsidered my stance a bit on him as commissioner. Joe Posnanski wrote an article awhile back about how much has been done for baseball since he has been commissioner. The biggest change in his time at the top is that baseball hasn’t really had any labor issues since the big one in 1994. That’s huge. I was mentioning my lessening dislike for Selig to a friend, and he made the point that a lot of Selig’s moves have been reactionary, so he doesn’t deserve total credit, and he’s right for that, but I do think he’s done a much better job than people give him credit for. That’s probably because he presents himself as an absolute slob. Last night, he had on his traditional wrinkled coat and his hair was messed up. Then with the sixth pick, he announced who the Washington Naturals were taking. It was just classic Selig. I guess we have to learn to accept him for his flaws and enjoy this long period of labor peace in baseball.

That was a good sorbet to get back into the big league team since anything more I tell you about Starling will be things you already know. Last night, the Royals got a huge win. I don’t mean that it was a big win because it kept playoff hopes alive or anything silly like that, but that it was a big win because they had just lost four in a row to the worst team in baseball, and that’s embarrassing. The Blue Jays are a solid club with a good offense, so a win last night was big. It’d be nice if they could keep their games to nine innings, but if they keep winning, I don’t care how many innings they play. The beauty of last night was getting to see Eric Hosmer get his first walk-off hit of his career. I can only imagine how excited he must have been.

The story of the night, though, was the continued dominance of Felipe Paulino. The guy was a scrap heap pickup by the Royals, and he has turned in three consecutive outstanding outings. I don’t expect him to maintain the pace he is currently on, but I can’t remember a mid-season pickup providing this much of a boost to the Royals rotation since Jose Lima in 2003. In 16 innings for the Royals, Paulino has allowed just eight hits. He’s struck out 11 while walking just three. He’s given up just two runs, only one of which was earned, and has just been a revelation so far. I chalk some of it up to opposing hitters having never seen him, but I think a lot of it is that he is locating his fastball better than he ever did before in the National League. He will assuredly go into a slump at some point and give up some runs and hits and walk some batters, but it’s nice to know that he has this sort of stretch in him that allows him to be a legitimately good starting pitcher for the Royals. I won’t ramble any more as I’ve gone from topic to topic more than I typically like, but yesterday was a fun day for the Royals. Let’s hope there are lots more like it in the near future.

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