Might Bubba Starling get called up soon?

Royals beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers fans' questions

May 20th, 2019

ST. LOUIS – The Royals revealed last week their internal month-by-month plan to creep back to .500, with modest gains of four-over-.500 or five-over-.500 each month through August.

But the Royals haven’t won a series in over a month (they swept Cleveland April 12-14). So the reality is, they’re going to have to go on a serious roll to even entertain the thought of reaching .500 by the end of August.

With that in mind, here is this week’s Royals Inbox:

Answer: is here. is here. Now the next why-aren’t-they-here candidate is former first-round pick Bubba Starling. The good news for those fans of Starling is that there seems little doubt that Starling, 26, will finally make his MLB debut sometime this season, perhaps soon. He is hitting .355 (though 34 of his 43 hits have been singles) and the Royals certainly are paying attention to his progress. Dayton Moore has mentioned many times that Starling could handle big league duty defensively right now, so the fact that he is healthy and hitting are positive signs. The only reason the Royals will be cautious about his call-up is that, unlike Lovelady and Lopez, Starling is out of options. When the Royals pull the trigger on Starling, it has to be pretty much for good.

Answer: Really a fair question. I still think 2021 is doable in terms of being competitive. By then, pitchers such as Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Jonathan Bowlan, etc., could be ready, and maybe even position players Seuly Matias, Nick Pratto, Kyle Isbel and M.J. Melendez and others will be knocking on the door. And one can see the present pieces in place -- , Lopez, , , , Lovelady, Kelvin Gutierrez, Scott Barlow, et al. We still don’t know about Khalil Lee or Brett Phillips (Jorge Bonifacio appears to be on a comeback), so it’s not unthinkable to view 2021 as a reasonable timeline.

Answer: Chris Owings has become the easy Twitter target and, for some reason, the face of the Royals’ early-season woes (let’s be honest, starting pitching is a far bigger issue). But Owings has played in only four games since May 8, so not sure why some fans are still piling on him. And he’s really not “old” – he’s 10 days older than Hunter Dozier. Lucas Duda is on the injured list and not exactly blocking anyone at the moment, though I would absolutely agree that if he returns to the 25-man roster, I don’t see his value in terms of roster construction (Ned Yost disagrees with me on that point). As for Billy Hamilton, it’s rather obvious why he was signed – they would like to be able to flip him as they did Jon Jay and Mike Moustakas last season in hopes of continuing to bolster the farm system. Hamilton needs to play somewhat regularly so he becomes attractive as the Royals get closer to the Trade Deadline. Contenders could see Hamilton as a nice speed/defensive addition. As for “delaying playing younger guys,” the Royals are playing fairly young players in Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez up the middle, Ryan O’Hearn at first, Dozier at third (and recently Kelvin Gutierrez) and pitchers like Brad Keller, Richard Lovelady, Scott Barlow, Heath Fillmyer, Jorge Lopez, Jakob Junis, etc.

Answer: Nothing has changed. Releasing a player is simply part of the process when you designate a player for assignment. First, a team will try to trade the player. If no deal emerges, the team sends the player through waivers. If the player clears, then his original team can re-sign him and outright him to the Minors.

Answer: Our MLB Pipeline folks are far more plugged into Draft news, but from what Moore told us last week, the Royals aren’t going to use the No. 2 pick on someone who isn’t a complete player. Bobby Witt Jr. supposedly is a five-tool guy. Andrew Vaughn may be the best hitting prospect in the Draft, but he apparently is suspect defensively – that’s not exactly a fit for the Royals’ type of player.

Answer: Really good question. From the scouts I have talked to, I don’t think there’s any doubt that would have the most value right now. He is left-handed, he’s cheap ($2.25 million), he has a 0.90 WHIP and opponents are hitting a measly .132 against him. He will be coveted. And if the Royals don’t get what they want for Diekman at the Trade Deadline, I could see a scenario where they entertain the thought of re-signing him. Diekman, rookie Richard Lovelady and perhaps Tim Hill (if he gets his command in order) would be a really sweet left-handed trio going forward. Diekman is 32 and still hitting 97 on the gun at times. Ian Kennedy’s contract (making $16.5 million this season and $16.5 million in 2020) likely would be prohibitive in any trade. Homer Bailey has shown flashes of being a decent No. 3 or No. 4 starter. Would a contender be intrigued by Bailey down the stretch, considering the Dodgers are basically subsidizing him? Possibly.