I figured we'd attack the prospects coming back in the Hunter Pence trade like we did the draft. Here's a short profile on each player, starting with Jonathan Singleton, where we look at his ceiling, floor and ETA to the majors. Consider this an extended take on the newest top prospect.
Astros fans are probably at least familiar with Singleton's name, since it was prominent in the Roy Oswalt trade rumors last summer. That's when the teenager was coming off a truly impressive start to the 2010 season and just before he faded badly down the stretch. Singleton is a big guy at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds but is also fairly nimble for a first baseman. His father Herb was a quarterback at Oregon but Singleton doesn't quite have that level of athleticism.
Since the Phillies have a first baseman locked up for the next 8-10 years in Ryan Howard, they tried to move Singleton to left field. That experiment came to a quick end, which affected how some scouts viewed his long-term potential. However, that's not looking at an important factor: an early-season ankle injury. Apparently, that may have been a factor in his bad play in left and why the Phillies decided to move him back to first for the rest of this season.
Also, his drop in power at the beginning of the season may be attributable to the Phillies trying to mess with his swing. Once Singleton went back to his usual ways, he started hitting again, including seeing his power numbers increase.
Whatever his future position may be, Singleton is definitely one of the most advanced hitting prospects for his age. While still a teenager, he's not only held his own in the Florida State League, but also shown excellent plate discipline. Singleton will easily be one of the most patient hitters in the current Astros lineup and could be one of the youngest players in the majors in a few years.
This is where Singleton loses points. First, he plays a position where there's little margin for error. Since he's already at one of the last-stop defensive spots, if he can't hit, he can't play. He also hasn't seen his raw power and swing path translate to big power numbers, except for about a month at the beginning of the 2010 season. For all those reasons, Singleton's floor is pretty low. He's also at a level in the minors that's mostly unproven and is far enough away from the majors to be considered a risk for never making it. If he can't handle Double-A pitching, his floor will be pretty low. However, that plate discipline mentioned above should be useful for him down the road and might give him the opportunity to be a backup in the big leagues at some point, even if the power or defense aren't there.
Here's why Houston traded for him. SIngleton absolutely has the chance to be an impact bat, becoming just the second prospect in the system with that distinction (until Springer signs). If his power comes, he's a 30-homer guy who could have an on-base percentage around .400. That's a middle of the order hitter with no question. He also plays first base pretty well and would be an asset there down the road.
ETA to majors
SIngleton is just in High A and will head to Lancaster in the California League with Houston. That means he's at least two years away from making an impact in the big leagues. However, if he goes to Corpus next summer and has a big year, he could follow the Altuve/Martinez path and get called up sometime in July or August of 2012. That's also assuming he's not blocked by the progress of Brett Wallace.
Speaking of Wallace, Singleton's floor may be very similar to Wallace, with a solid batting average, good walk rate but little power. Looking at some of the first basemen from the past 10 years, I could see Singleton having careers similar to two other slugging first basemen who debuted at 21: Derrick Lee and Carlos Delgado.
Video and bibliography after the jump...
Jonathan Singleton has two major things going for him as a prospect -- a great-looking swing and very good patience for his age. He shows good hand speed, balance and rhythm at the plate, along with excellent hip rotation for future plus power.
Singleton is a classic bat-only player, but it could be one hell of a bat. He's a 220-pound chiseled slugger with massive raw power, but much of his reputation is based around an explosive first few weeks at Low-A Lakewood last year.
Singleton has a pure stroke with strength in his swing and isn't afraid to go deep in counts to go with above-average raw power. He's more of a hitter than masher at this stage, and will have to identify spin to improve at higher levels, especially against lefthanded pitchers.
People were quick to downgrade Singleton, but he’d be age appropriate in the New York Penn League, 2 levels below where he is now, and he’d probably be putting up video game numbers. Context is everything, and I am legitimately sad to see him go.
Grade B+: Concern over poor second half splits kept me from going with the A-, but I do like him a lot. Can he adjust to the outfield? How will bat play in Florida State League?
While not a true power hitter, his advanced approach and ability to make hard contact leave him with a much higher floor than the vast majority of prospects his age. He’s unlikely to be a true "bomber" from the first base position, but he’s athletic for his size and should provide average or better defense while making contributing in many ways on offense.