Nationals draft preview: Prep OF Bubba Starling

There has been a lot of talk over the past few years regarding the Nationals building up their minor league system by stocking it with pitchers. After all, pitching has taken a front seat in the major leagues the past few seasons and you can never have enough good pitchers as bargaining chips when you are looking for a certain position player to get you over the hump.

But then there are those pure athletes or can’t-miss prospects on the offensive side you have to take a look at. The Nationals are always looking for talent in the outfield, especially a highly skilled player who could also be a leadoff bat for the future.

With the Nationals selecting so high in the draft, and if a lot of the collegiate pitchers are taken with the first five selections, Washington could select high school outfielder Bubba Starling with the sixth overall pick Monday.

Jim Callis, executive editor for Baseball America, said the Nationals would be in a good position at that part of the draft if it comes down to pitcher Trevor Bauer or Starling.

Baseball America’s scouting report shows how talented Starling could be at the next level, and how badly he wants to play baseball:

“Starling is the best athlete in the 2011 draft. As a pitcher, he’d be a potential first-round pick as a 6-foot-5, 195-pound right hander with a fastball that touches 95 mph. He’s also a gifted quarterback who earned a scholarship from Nebraska after leading Gardner-Edgerton to the Kansas 5-A state semifinals as a senior. Starling ran for 2,377 yards and 31 touchdowns last fall, while passing for 790 yards and eight more scores. Despite his ability on the mound and on the gridiron, his future is as a five-tool center fielder who resembles Drew Stubbs.”

Callis said the Nationals will take a serious look at Starling because of his all-around athletic capabilities.

“He is the riskiest guy in the top six, but you are talking about the ultimate,” Callis said. “Starling is well above average, with power and speed at the center fielder (position). He is a quarterback recruit for Nebraska. He probably would be a first-round selection as a pitcher because his arm is ridiculous, too.”

And Callis said that Starling is one of those players that could be as good as the two other famous top selections made by the Nationals the past two seasons.

“(The Nationals) would be getting the highest-ceiling player in three drafts in a row if you went Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Bubba Starling,” Callis said. “If those guys were all as good as they could be, you could put an average team around them and have a contender. That would be an unbelievable nucleus.”

Just imagine for a moment, a team with Jayson Werth in left, Bubba Starling in center and Bryce Harper in right; Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Chris Marrero in the infield; Stephen Strasburg on the hill and Wilson Ramos behind the plate.

That would be a pretty good lineup, don’t you think?

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