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The Time Is Now For Astros’ Jon Singleton

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Jon Singleton’s time is now!

During last night’s win over the Texas Rangers, Chris Carter sprained his ankle during the first inning and was promptly removed from the game. Enter Big Jon Singleton, the mysterious first baseman who crushes it at triple-A, but can’t quite figure out Major League pitching.

The Houston Chronicle’s Brian T. Smith referred to this as a “Wally Pipp” moment. According to the legend, Pipp lost his starting job as the Yankees first baseman when he came to the ballpark with a headache. Lou Gehrig started as his replacement and the rest is history. Smith’s comparison is mostly tongue-in-cheek (I think) but you get the gist.

While the Astros have yet to place Chris Carter on the disabled list, he’ll miss some time while his ankle heals. Big Jon now has the opportunity to seize the first base job and own it. The knock on Singleton is that he’s an AAAA player, a guy who mashes in minors but can’t quite make the jump to the bigs. As Eric Huysman pointed out yesterday, the Astros have a problem at first base, but there is no easy solution to fix it, either by trade or bringing up another prospect.

The time has never been better for Singleton to re-establish himself as the Houston Astros’ first baseman. Last season he was given a lot of time on a losing ball club to show what he had. Unfortunately for all parties, Singleton posted .168/.285/.335 with 13 home runs, 44 runs batted in, 50 walks, and 134 strikeouts over 95 games.

So far this season, Big Jon has played in 10 games (28 at bats) after getting recalled on June 27. He did not play in six games since that time, leaving fans to wonder if the Astros were really serious about giving him playing time. Carter has floundered most of the year, so why call up the supposed first baseman of the future and not put him consistently in the lineup?

And the question remains of how much time he will get because of guys like Marwin Gonzalez. MarGo has done well this year in the super utility role. He plays a decent first base and swings a fairly consistent stick, so he could steal some time from Singleton.

Then there is the question of what Houston will do when Jed Lowrie returns. Luis Valbuena was reportedly taking reps at first during the All-Star break, so clearly the Astros are weighing their options. This indicates that they may shift Jed to third and Val to first, if need be.

But the Astros need to know what they have with Singleton now. They need to see if he can man the first sack and be productive when he steps to the dish. One could see from last night the defensive difference between Carter and Singleton, too. Big Jon wasn’t perfect, but his glove work – a couple of nice digs (one to double-up Delino DeShields Jr, and the other to make the final out on Prince Fielder) – show he is an upgrade over Carter.

So, I implore the Astros to truly give Jon Singleton his shot. The time is now.

Next: Do the Astros Have to Trade Appel and Phillips?

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