The Houston Astros promoted first base prospect Jon Singleton to the major league roster today. According to multiple media sources, Singleton was also given a contact extension, with five years guaranteed, three team option seasons, with a total value of up to $35,000,000.
Singleton was hitting .267/.397/.544 with 14 homers, 42 walks, and 52 strikeouts in 195 at-bats over 54 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League.
Here's his background, based on the Prospect of the Day article I wrote about him back in late April.
Jon Singleton was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the eighth round in 2009, from high school in Long Beach, California. At one point he was considered a second-round candidate but his performance as a high school senior didn't match that assessment and cost him several rounds. The Phillies signed him for $200,000. This looked like an astute decision after he hit .290/.395/.440 in rookie ball and .290/.393/.479 with 14 homers in the South Atlantic League in 2010.
He opened '11 at High-A Clearwater and continued to hit well (.284/.387/.414) in 93 games, then was traded to the Astros that summer as part of the Hunter Pence deal. He thrived in the excellent hitting environment at Lancaster after the trade, hitting .333/.405/.512/. He remained effective in 2012 with a .284/.396/.497 mark and 21 homers for Double-A Corpus Christi, drawing 88 walks with 131 strikeouts.
Singleton entered '13 as the top first base prospect in baseball but what should have been a final touch up on his resume ended up as a disaster. It began with a 50-game suspension for marijuana use. When he came back he did not look like the same player: he was overweight, out of shape, and simply did not perform well. He hit just .220/.340 with a terrible .347 SLG for Oklahoma City with 89 strikeouts in 245 at-bats.
It wasn't just the numbers that were off: he didn't look like the same player either with tools or skills; his bat speed was down and his swing had deteriorated mechanically, short-circuiting his power. He was easily fooled by breaking balls but also had problems catching up with Triple-A fastballs. He was running poorly and even his fielding reactions were sluggish compared to what I'd seen previously. All this was after he came back from the suspension.
Singleton entered '14 with some serious questions to answer. He began the campaign to restore his career with a spring training public admission of his problems with drugs. On and off the field, he answered any questions to Houston's satisfaction this spring: he looked like his old productive self at Oklahoma City. His swing is back in gear, he's drawing walks again, the power has blossomed, and according to PCL observers, he's playing with good effort.
Jon Singleton-2014 looks much more like the excellent young slugger we saw in 2012 than the lost player we saw in '13.
With the contract extension, the Astros are showing great faith in him. It seems clear that Singleton took the 2013 troubles to heart and has his career, and hopefully his life, back on track.