30 Players in 30 Days: Jon Singleton
Jon Singleton was drafted out of high school in the 8th round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. By 2011, he was a prized prospect but was blocked by Ryan Howard and the Phillies needed an outfielder down the stretch. On June 9, 2011, the Houston Astros traded Hunter Pence to the Phillies for a PTBNL (Domingo Santana), Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and Singleton.
Singleton put together a strong 2012 season at Double-A Corpus Christi but faced trouble in 2013. The then 21-year-old was suspended the first 50 games of the 2013 season for testing positive for marijuana – a violation of minor league baseball’s drug policy. Singleton was unimpressive when he came back, but responded with a powerful start at Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014. On June 2, 2014, the Astros signed Singleton to a contract worth a guaranteed $10 million that could extend up to eight years and was subsequently called up to the big-league club.
Singleton was unimpressive in 2014 and started 2015 back in Triple-A playing with the Fresno Grizzlies. Singleton spent the first three months at Fresno, and like in 2014, he was off to a strong start: .280/.387/.553, 17 home runs, 17 doubles, and 66 RBIs. On June 26, the Astros placed Chad Qualls on the 15-day DL and recalled Singleton hoping for more success in 2015.
The then 23-year-old lefty spent the last two days of June and nearly all of July with the Astros. In 16 games (13 starts), Singleton hit .205/.321/.318 with one home run and six RBIs. On July 31, Singleton was optioned back to Triple-A to make room for Carlos Gomez and played with Fresno through the end of their season that eventually ended in a Triple-A National Championship.
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Singleton’s major-league struggles followed him back down to Triple-A, though, as he hit only .193/.296/.395 over the final two months of the minor-league season. The Astros recalled the first baseman on Sept. 23, and he appeared in three more games, recording two hits in five at-bats with two walks.
The team was in a tough position this season with Singleton. He produced and was a big RBI guy at Triple-A, but the Astros could not afford to give him consistent at-bats against face MLB pitching while in the playoff hunt. At the same time, they stuck with Chris Carter while he strung together miserable stat lines at first base.
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What to expect in 2016
Through parts of two seasons, Singleton has hit .171/.290/.331 in 362 plate appearances with 134 strikeouts and 14 home runs. Even Chris Carter managed .199/.307/.427 in his 460 at-bats in 2015. The Astros have “swung and missed” with two first base prospects over the past few seasons, but have at least one more guy – the one that’s supposed to be different – also crushing minor-league pitching.
Singleton is a curious case at this point; he has power and plate discipline, but obviously lacks the ability to make consistent contact (His 28.1% swinging strike percentage is almost 12% higher than the league average). He has security because of his contract, but if he ever wants to make an impact with the Astros he is going to have to improve quickly with A.J. Reed and other corner infielders fast approaching.