Jon Singleton: Pushing Houston’s Young First Baseman

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For years, the Astros farm system promised two main offensive pieces that we were all counting on in Houston, outfielder George Springer and first baseman Jon Singleton. Mr. Springer appears to be as advertised after flashing super-stardom in his injury shortened debut season. Jon Singleton’s first taste of the big leagues, on the other hand, left us with many more questions about the future.

In 2014, Singleton signed a deal with the Astros that would pay him $10 million over the next 5 seasons. It was a coup for the organization who seemed to have locked up one of their most promising pieces at a discounted rate. It also allowed Houston to accelerate Singleton’s progression and promote him to the big leagues immediately. The power presence was desperately needed and some excitement for Astros fans couldn’t possibly have hurt either. However, the young slugger failed to impress in his first season.

While Singleton showed some of the power that the club had been expecting (13 homers and 44 RBI in 310 at-bats), his dismally low batting average of .168 made it hard to justify keeping him in the lineup on a regular basis. Suddenly, plenty of people were asking whether or not this young man could be Houston’s first baseman for, not just the foreseeable future, but for the immediate future as well.

The power is there for Singleton. Now, he needs to focus on discipline. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Singleton was acquired from Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence trade that also brought Jarred Cosart and Domingo Santana to Houston. Not a bad haul for an organization looking to rebuild. Singleton was clearly the centerpiece of the trade for the Astros.  A big left-handed power-hitting first baseman that would someday help fill the void left by Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. But with the acquisition of Evan Gattis and the new-found success of Chris Carter, coupled with Singleton’s early struggles, it’s beginning to look like nothing is guaranteed for the youngster. Both of those players are in the mix to see time at first base.

It is not just the pressure that the two veterans currently on his team will be providing for Singleton to turn things around, but also advancing prospects from within the organization’s farm system.  A.J. Reed is a polished college bat that put up fantastic numbers in his first professional season and while he is not yet on the horizon for joining the big-league club, he could impact the ultimate game plan for the Astros first base job.

Singleton told MLB.com that in his offseason he was “just hanging out, trying to decompress from baseball.” That makes sense after all of the pressure and expectations heaped upon him at a very young age. When asked what he has been working on, he said “The biggest thing I’ve been trying to do this offseason is strengthen my mental game as far as dealing with failure and preparation.”

Singleton has had to deal with a lot in his short professional career. He admitted to struggling with substance abuse related to marijuana and the contract he signed was widely criticized by other players and agents.  We think about figuring out who we are as people at the age of 22.  Jon Singleton was figuring that out while battling addiction and handling criticism all while trying to live up to vast on-field expectations.

His age, his contract, and his unharnessed talent make Singleton worth giving every opportunity. But the leash may be short in a town that is ready for a winner and a club that has other options, should the young player struggle out of the gate in 2015. If nothing else is certain, we know we will be rooting for him to succeed.

Next: Astros Announce Spring Training Rotation

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