Jonathan Singleton (Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports)
Who is Jonathan Singleton? Yes on a general, specific sense, of course I know who the 22-year old top prospect is. But really, who exactly is Singleton and what can we expect from him going forward?
At the beginning of 2013, Astros’ fans were eagerly planning for Singleton to arrive in Houston at some point during the season. Then the 50-game suspension came along and for all intents and purposes, the first baseman’s season was over. Yes, he did return after the suspension, but Singleton did not come close to earning a promotion to the big leagues.
Essentially 2013 was what you can call a lost season for Singleton. However, we do need to still remember that he is just 22 years old. No, that does not excuse the immaturity, the regression, and the poor performance that we saw from Singleton last season, but it should be noted.
Singleton had a very good 2012 for AA Corpus Christi which erased any doubt about his status as a top prospect in the Astros organization. He batted .284 in 131 games while hitting 21 home runs and driving in 79 runs to go along with his 27 doubles. As Singleton grows into his power and progresses, those doubles should increase, but more importantly some of his doubles will turn into home runs. Plus the left-handed slugger has certainly shown the ability to be a run producer.
As he looks towards rebounding from last season, Singleton is doing a good job of that in the Puerto Rico Winter League. So far in 31 games, Singleton is hitting .288 with 9 home runs, 17 RBI’s, and six doubles. Yes he has struck out 35 times in 111 at bats, but Singleton has also walked 22 times.
If you project his performance across a full slate of games, Singleton’s power numbers will be on the high side. However, you must take into account the downgrade in competition, but that should also not be used to penalize Singleton. His performance this winter is in line with his career trajectory thus far, and provides a good insight into what you can expect from him going forward.
So now here is the real question; what will the Houston Astros get from Singleton in 2014? And can we expect to see him on the field for Opening Day?
First of all, he seems to be in better shape. And I mean that literally both in the physical and mental sense.
"“He’s a very strong individual,” Luhnow said. “He likes to spend time in the gym, conditioning and lifting and everything else. He does more sort of football conditioning, if you will, and ends up bulking up maybe a little more than he should. He’s really worked well with our nutritionist and our conditioning people, and we feel he’s getting very close to the optimal body composition and the sort of strength and agility combination. He’s a very, very good defensive first baseman, and he’s going to hit for a ton of power. This is a very exciting player.”"
More than his actual performance, this is what I’m most concerned about seeing from Singleton going forward. However, as last season proved, there is a clear correlation between the two.
Before his suspension, I think the plan was to bring Singleton up to Houston toward the end of last season — depending on his performance. Instead he missed the first 50 games, struggled upon his return in AA, and then did even worse after being promoted to AAA Oklahoma City (.220, 6 HR, 31 RBI in 73 games).
If Singleton continues his success in Spring Training, I think there is a good chance he opens the year with the Astros. And if that is not the case, I think we will see Singleton by June at the latest, but more likely at some point in May.
Granted the Astros were in on Mike Morse, and there would be room for him and Singleton to play everyday, but I think the Astros are planning for Singleton to play a large role in 2014. The acquisition of Jesus Guzman furthers that thought as, at worst, he could be in a platoon situation with Singleton, while also providing an insurance policy if Jonathan isn’t ready.
I’m not sure that Singleton will be the best Astros rookie next season, but that will be no fault of his own. However, Singleton will be in the conversation. That is for sure.