Here is what we know about Jonathan Singleton. He is a top prospect. The guy can hit. Singleton hits for both power and average and is not a slouch defensively at first base either. For that reason, the left handed power hitter was ranked 27th by MLB.com on their 2013 top prospect list. But, before we go any further, we have to discuss the elephant in the room.
Jonathan Singleton (H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports)
Heading into this season Astros fans had well reasoned optimism about Singleton. After a successful 2012 campaign in AA for Houston, it seemed that with a successful Spring Training and start to the season, that we would be seeing Singleton in Houston at some point in 2013. Or at least, despite General Manager Jeff Luhnow’s preference to have prospects spend full seasons at minor league levels, Singleton would force the hand of Luhnow and Manager Bo Porter. That optimism changed once it was revealed that Singleton would be suspended for the first 50 games of the season after testing positive for marijuana.
My initial reaction was anger and dismay. Now it was more likely we would not see Singleton in Houston until 2014. Plus we recently lived through drug related issues with the since departed Jordan Schafer. But, it looks like this situation will be different and could prove to be a blessing in disguise.
After giving the issue more consideration, I am thinking that some positive can come of this. First we must remember that Singleton is only 21 years old. He has admittedly referred to this in a statement as “a lapse in judgment.” This could very well prove to be a wakeup call for him. After breezing through the minor leagues with success, being suspended now forces Singleton to take a step back. His problems have become fodder for public discussion, but it could become a learning experience. I am sure that Porter and the coaching staff will turn this into a teachable experience for Singleton and this should prove to humble him and force him to re-focus himself.
As for the concern that this will prevent Singleton from reaching the major leagues this season, Luhnow has other ideas. Granted this was prior to the acquisition of Chris Carter, but it seems like the Astros are thinking more of Carter as an option in leftfield. Speaking to Brian McTaggart of Astros.com about Singleton, Luhnow said “I think he’s got a good shot. If he stays healthy and continues to produce, he’ll be there.” Luhnow also stated that heading into the season, the expectation was that Singleton would arrive in Houston in 2013. Of course this sets him back 50 games, but if it does not prevent that promotion from happening, the harm will be minimized if not eliminated.
Singleton will still be in Minor League camp during Spring Training so he will be getting plenty of work and instruction. He will be able to make progress and grow as a player without the stress of competing for a big league role. This could actually reduce the stress in his development and give him time to work on different facets of his game without consequence.
Last season Singleton hit 21 HR and drove in 79 runs in 131 games while batting .284. For a player that only turned 21 in September, those are some impressive numbers for sure. Players like this do not come around often. That is part of the reason why it is so frustrating to see Singleton forced to sit for 50 games.
Were Singleton not suspended there would be a greater pressure and scrutiny surrounding his Spring Training performance. Everything would be dissected to determine whether or not he would make the team. Now he can just relax and work at growing as a baseball player both on and off the field. This very well could turn into a learning experience and might even make him a better player in the future. There is a reason why he was ranked as the 27th best prospect, and you will see why in 2014 if not sooner.