Back when we heard rumors of an Hunter Pence trade in 2011, Astros fans were not happy to say the least, but then the names of the players we would be receiving came out. The Astros received Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid, and eventually Domingo Santana in exchange for Hunter Pence. Unfortunately two of these players, Cosart via trade and Zeid via wavier claim, are no longer on the Astros roster. While Santana has showed some success in the minors, he looked overmatched in his cup of coffee in 2014 with the Astros.
With Ryan Howard manning 1st base for the Phillies, they were able to trade Jon Singleton to the Astros. He was inserted into the Astros top prospect list, and Astros fans had visions of home runs in their heads from their new shiny toy. While fellow prospect George Springer got the most attention, Singleton made a reputation for himself that he might not ever live down.
According to Jerry Crasnick, “Houston Astros prospect Jonathan Singleton, a rising star in the organization and the team’s first baseman of the future, has been suspended for the first 50 games of the 2013 season for his second violation of minor league baseball’s drug policy.”
“I was informed today that I have tested positive for marijuana,” Singleton said in the statement. “As a result, I am being suspended for the first 50 games of the 2013 season.” This slowed down Singleton’s progress towards his dream of playing in the big leagues.
From Baseball America, Jon Singleton was ranked as follows
Prospect Ratings by Baseball America:
Pre-2011: Rated #39 Prospect
Pre-2012: Rated #34 Prospect
Pre-2013: Rated #27 Prospect
Pre-2014: Rated #82 Prospect
The suspension and the poor play in 2013 (0.230 BA, 11 HR, 44 RBI) hurt Singleton’s status as a top prospect after being the top prospect at first base for a while. At the beginning of his minor league career, he tended to hit for high average. However after the suspension he batted 0.240 and 0.267 in 2013-2014. In 2014 before his promotion to the big leagues, he hit 14 HR’s, 44 RBI’s, with a OPS of 0.941. The Astros fresh on the heals of the George Springer promotion, made their next step towards the future.
From an article by Mike Axisa, “The Astros have agreed to a five-year contract extension worth at least $10 million with top prospect Jonathan Singleton, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has confirmed. The contract includes three club options and can be worth up to $35 million. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports first reported the deal.”
“The Astros have agreed to a five-year contract extension worth at least $10 million with top prospect Jonathan Singleton”-Mike Axisa
So before Singleton ever got an at-bat in the majors, the Astros extended his contract to lock him up for 5 years. Yes Singleton had a good first couple of games, but did the pressure of the contract cause him to press at the plate? Ever since he was traded to the Astros he’s been labeled the future. After his promotion, he batted 0.168 with 13 home runs, with 44 runs batted in,0.690 OPS, and 134 strikeouts in 310 at-bats.
Yes, any good math teacher could tell you that 134 strikeouts in 362 plate appearances is a 37% strike out percentage. That seems like a high amount of whiffs; lets look at his minor league strike out percentages;
2009-11% (in 119 plate appearances)
2010-16% (in 450 plate appearances)
2011-23% (in 530 plate appearances)
2012-23% (in 555 plate appearances)
2013-30% (in 367 plate appearances)
2014-21% (in 239 plate appearances)
The trend line of his strikeouts is on a positive trend, and in terms of strike-outs, that’s not a good thing. While his 2013 strikeout percentage is his highest percentage in the minors, I would call this the outlier of the data set. Remember that in 2013 is when he was suspended, which led to a bad year. So over his 6 year minor league career, he struck out 22% (503/2260) of his plate appearances. Remove the 2013 numbers from the equation, and he stuck out an average of 21% (393/1893) of his plate appearances.
So over his minor league career, he did not show the same proficiency he showed last year with the Astros. While his batting average overall is 0.168 in 2014, he did hit 0.238 with balls in play. So, in order for Singleton to become the middle of the order guy, he’s gonna have to adjust to big league pitching.
Take a second to look at Jon Singleton’s Hot Zone from ESPN. He has more success up and away, and not much elsewhere. Pitchers have scouting reports that let them know how to get Singleton out, so he needs to learn how to adjust to the reports and limit his holes.
Someone else in the recent past had the same issues that Singleton had last year, his name was Brett Wallace. Am I saying that Singleton will be like Wallace, for the Astros sake I hope not.
What’s in store for Jon Singleton in 2015? I’m a big Fantasy baseball guy, and I like that the fantasy geeks generate projections of what the player might do. While all the magazines are still a month away, RotoChamp has early projection for 2015. He will hit 0.193, 19 home runs, 61 runs batted in, and an increased strike out total of 169. To win, the Astros need a higher contact rate, and better average.
With a full spring training without the pressure of making the roster, hopefully he can get rid of some of the holes in his swing. I still believe in him, and I know the Astros do too. Let’s have a great spring training.
Nostalgic for the Astros playoffs of the past, give Favorite Astros Moment: Game 4 of 2005 NLDS a read.
Or give Jon Singleton Needs to Show That he Can Be the Future by David Hill a read.