Astros' Singleton named co-Player of the Week
First base prospect clubbed two homers for Solar Sox
When the Houston Astros were considering a trade of outfielder Hunter Pence to Philadelphia in 2011 and talking about which players to acquire, the name of first baseman Jonathan Singleton came up.
As word began to filter through the Astros' organization, alarms went off for Rodney Linares.
Linares was the manager of Houston's Class A affiliate in Lexington, Ky., in 2010, and he had been in the opposing dugout watching Singleton play for the Phillies' affiliate in Lakewood, N.J. Linares wasted no time endorsing Singleton, telling anyone and everyone about the kid's potential.
The trade -- Singleton and three other Minor Leaguers, including fellow AFL player Jarred Cosart, for Pence -- was made on July 29, 2011. In Linares' mind, the Astros had their first baseman of the future.
Now Linares has a role in Singleton's development as the manager of the Arizona Fall League's Mesa Solar Sox.
It's so far, so good after week one of AFL play.
Singleton, who turned 21 on Sept. 18, has been selected one of the AFL's co-Players of the Week along with Surprise Saguaros first baseman Chris McGuiness (Rangers).
The left-handed-hitting Singleton batted .350 in five games with a .435 on-base percentage, an .800 slugging percentage, two home runs, five RBIs, one double, one triple, seven hits and seven runs scored.
"He's a hitter -- that's all you can say," said Linares, who managed Houston's affiliate in Lancaster, Calif., to the Class A Advanced California League championship in 2012. "He is way beyond his years. He's showing he can hit for power, too. The sky is the limit. He's definitely one of the best first-base prospects I've seen in a long time."
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Singleton is listed No. 25 among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects. He moved up to Double-A Corpus Christi in 2012 and hit .284 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 131 games. He also had 88 walks and scored 94 runs.
"I try not to make things too complicated at the plate," said Singleton, who grew up in Long Beach, Calif. "I try to stay through the middle part of the field when I swing. I have been seeing the ball pretty well. The game is starting to slow down, and when it does, you know you are doing things right."
Timing appears to be in Singleton's favor.
The Astros are starting with a fresh slate. The team is moving to the American League after 50 years in the National League. The Astros have a new manager, Bo Porter. And after the trade of veteran Carlos Lee to Miami midway through 2012, the first-base spot has been manned primarily by Brett Wallace (a 2008 first-round pick acquired from Toronto on the same day the Astros got Singleton, but a player whose star has dimmed). Moreover, with the Astros using the designated hitter full-time, Singleton's opportunities could be even greater.
But Linares isn't buying the DH talk.
"He's going to be an everyday first baseman in the big leagues, period," Linares said. "As I said, he can hit, and he's above average defensively."
Singleton said he is grateful to be in the AFL to further enhance his skills.
"It's definitely cool to have Rodney here to help me out," he said. "I just want to go out and play hard every day, be known as somebody who hits the ball hard, doesn't matter where it's pitched."
Singleton was an eighth-round pick by the Phillies in 2009, and the organization briefly tried him in left field, figuring Ryan Howard would remain a fixture at first base for quite some time. But Singleton was moved back to first base and Howard began having injury problems.
Singleton is not completely opposed to trying the outfield again, but he feels much more comfortable at first.
"I have worked hard on my defense," he said.
Howard and Detroit's Prince Fielder are first basemen who Singleton has followed closely.
"I'd like to be like them and be as much of a complete player as I can," Singleton said.
Don Ketchum is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.