The league announced today that Astros minor leaguers Jon Singleton and Dean Deetz have been suspended.
For first baseman Singleton, his suspension is for testing positive of a drug of abuse (i.e. a recreational substance), his third such suspension. He will be banned for 100 games without pay.
Deetz, a right-handed reliever who had just been added to the Astros’ 40-man roster, tested positive for the performance enhancing drug dehydrochlormethyltestosterone. Obviously, he ignored the first rule of thumb, which is if a supplement contains thirty letters, you should probably avoid it. His suspension is 50 games for a first offense.
Deetz issued a statement today strongly denying that he knew he had taken a PED, and is apparently appealing the suspension. (spoiler alert: he will probably lose)
The barely-24-year-old hurler reached AAA this season, and he struggled with walks in his 45 innings at the level, hemorrhaging 6.40 earned runs per nine. In that space though, he blew away fifty five batters with the K, and the Astros liked what they saw enough to protect him from potential loss during the Rule 5 draft during the 2017 Winter Meetings.
The 50 game suspension means that Deetz will lose roughly twenty appearances that he otherwise would have gotten to prove that he could get his walks under control, as he had done previously at Double A Corpus Christi.
Deetz still has a punter’s chance to sniff the bigs during 2018 later in the season, if he comes back strong, gets the walks under control, and the Astros have an urgent need for a couple spot innings in September. Realistically though, 2019 is now his best chance to log meaningful major league innings.
For Singleton however, this third strike could be the final out of his game. Still only (barely) 26 years old, it seems a dream of ancient yore when the big slugger graced the columns of national Top 100 prospects lists.
After coming over to Houston in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies after the 2010 season, the first baseman established himself as a premiere prospect by whopping 21 home runs at AA, while only at the tender age of 20.
By 2014, the Astros were so enamored of Singleton that they inked him to a widely-ridiculed-for-its-cheapness $10 million contract that would potentially keep him tied to the Astros through the 2021 season on silly-cheap team options.
By 2016, after Singleton demonstrated that his best major league skills were drawing walks and striking out, it was clear that the Astros would have been better served setting that money on fire, sticking it in their noses, and singing Puff the Magic Dragon as Rome burned.
And the song would have been à propos. The warning was already there in 2013 when it was revealed that Singleton would serve a 50-game suspension for getting caught dancing with Mary Jane for the second time. (That’s a euphemism, for those of you who haven’t heard of Tom Petty)
This third offense and 100-game suspension is quite possibly the death knell of Singleton’s career. The Astros will not need to pay him for 100 games of his 2018 salary, and will certainly decline the first of his three team options during the 2018/19 offseason. Further, it is possible that the $500,000 buyout on that option is the last money he sees as a baseball player in the MLB/MiLB circuit.
His Age 26 season can only be seen as a dismal failure. In 117 games after being demoted to Double A again, he managed a seemingly-respectable 120 wRC+. But this was as an advanced player whose last smell of Whataburger Park was five seasons ago, and his offensive value was propped entirely by a hilarious 21% walk rate.
He certainly did nothing else well while playing for the Hooks as an elder statesmen. His 18 home runs in 500 plate appearances were fewer than the 21 he managed in only 14 more games in 2012 at the same level. His strikeout rate was 26%, two points higher than his 20-year-old self. His batting line was a punchless .205/.376/.397.
One hopes certainly that Singleton is able to straighten out his nonsense. Even if he moves to a location where his recreation of choice has been legalized, continued use while in a profession that bans it, knowing he would be under close scrutiny due to prior offenses, does not indicate a guy who is currently able to keep his priorities straight.
If he is ill, one wishes for healing. If he just doesn’t give a crap and is doing what he wants no matter what, well, one hopes he recovers from that as well; that path never leads anywhere worth going.
The two suspensions of Astros minor leaguers are connected only in that they were announced at the same time. Luckily, Deetz, if he wins his appeal, has lost nothing except whatever remaining innocence he had about the world being a fair place. If he loses his appeal, he learns a pretty darned important lesson about personal accountability. Either way, he still has a chance at a long career as a successful major league reliever.
With Singleton, all the Astros, Astros fans, and probably Singleton himself have left is regret.