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Houston Astros: Will Jon Singleton be Given a Chance for First Base Job?

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Where Does Jon Singleton fit in with the Houston Astros?

For years, Houston Astros fans have dreamed of Carlos Correa and Jon Singleton making a positive impact on the roster for years to come. Correa was supposed to be the Astros future at shortstop and Singleton was supposed to emerge from Ryan Howard’s shadow to become the next great first baseman. At least, that is what we thought would happen. The Astros felt that Singleton was the real deal, signing him to a major league contract before he saw his first major league pitch. He showed promise in his first game hitting a majestic home run after striking out twice in the game.

The future had arrived, and Astros fans were happy that George Springer and Singleton were on the roster after a few months of fans clamouring for them to get a chance. The success would be short-lived as Singleton, despite hitting 13 homers in his rookie season, he made Chris Carter‘s .199 2015 batting average look good by hitting .168 in 310 at-bats according to Baseball-Reference. The worst stat from Singleton’s rookie year was his 134 strikeouts in 310 at-bats at a 37% strikeout rate per Fangraphs. His .285 on-base average was also below par despite a decent 13.8% walk percentage.

Some people would have called me a Singleton apologist following his rookie year, as I felt that he felt the pressure to live up to the contract and was pressing at the plate. The Astros signed the five-year $10 million dollar contract with reasonable team options for the following three seasons, essentially potentially making it an eight-year deal. However, should his current trend continues, the Astros will not be picking up his options seasons.

Jeff Luhnow gambled that Singleton would be an impact player, so the Astros were able to buy out his arbitration years to keep him at a cheaper cost. Reportedly, the Astros tried the same move on Springer earlier in the season, but he said no. Singleton has had success in the minors, most notably last season in Triple-A Fresno, hitting .254/ 22 homers/ 72 RBI with a 22.1% strikeout rate. The Houston Astros hoped that he had rounded back in shape, but his short stint in the big leagues in 2015 was again unproductive with a .191 batting average despite cutting down on the strikeouts rate from 37% to 29.3% in 2015.

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While he was coming up in the minors, he often drew comparisons to a Ryan Howard type .240 hitter with 30 homers and a load of strikeouts. Only one of those attributes has been on display thus far, and it’s not the positive trait. Does this mean that Singleton is a bust like Brett Wallace appeared to be, no, by the way, Wallace is still playing baseball. Anthony Rizzo got off to a slow start in his first rookie season in 2011 with the Padres but was able to improve his stats slowly over the next two seasons with the Cubs. Now Rizzo is one of their top hitters, if not the best on the Cubs that went to the second round of the playoffs in 2015.

Mike Trout was another name that struggled at first but is now one of the top players in the game. If the Astros give Singleton a chance at the beginning of the season to play, he could find the groove to become the productive hitter we thought he was. With Carter being non-tendered, Singleton has an increased chance at first.

Next: Houston Astros: Internal Options at First Base

His competition includes my dark horse candidate Tyler White (not on 40-man roster), Matt Duffy, Marwin Gonzalez, and super prospect A.J. Reed. At the beginning of the year following Singleton’s demotion, Luhnow said the team still has faith in him. Whether the Astros add him to the 25-man roster or not come opening day, 2016, will show how much faith the Astros have in Singleton. My advice might be to see what they have in Singleton at the beginning, then go to plan B if he fails.

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