We've already begun our encompassing look at the first base position with the release of our consensus top 30 first basemen for the 2014 season. We will not be releasing a top prospect list by position this year, so there is no list of top 20 first base prospects coming, for the simple reason that ranking them for position isn't likely to help a lot of fantasy owners. Instead, as a part of each position, the prospect staff will look at a few prospects at each position who could potentially have an impact during the 2014 season.
Weight: 235 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: Yes
Options Left: 3
DOB: 9/18/1991 (Age 22 season)
Singleton was drafted by the Phillies in the 8th round of the 2009 draft, and signed for an over-slot bonus of $200K. He played in the GCL that year, and was sent to full-season Low-A for his first full professional season. He hit extremely well there that season (145 wRC+, .290, 14 HR), and was moved up to High-A Clearwater for the 2011 season. He was hitting .282 with nine home runs when he was traded to the Astros as a part of the package that brought Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, and finished the season with 35 games in the California League. Moved up to AA for the 2012 season, Singleton hit 21 home runs along with a .284 batting average (wRC+ of 148).
Unfortunately, he wasn't able to build upon that momentum, and his 2013 campaign would have to be classified as a disappointment. Singleton missed the first 50 games of the season after being suspended for a failed drug test. While the suspension doesn't necessarily question his performance since it was a "drug of abuse" (marijuana) rather than a performance enhancing drug, it did bring out questions about his makeup and decision making process, since a 50-game suspension is the result of a second failed drug test. He returned at the end of May, and reached AAA by the middle of June. His performance once there though was a setback, as he hit .220 with 6 home runs in 73 games there. The Astros added Singleton to the 40-man roster this offseason.
The Scouting Report
Singleton's bat will carry him to the major leagues, as his power potential is above-average to potentially plus. It won't be empty power either, as he is considered an above-average hitter for batting average purposes, and has an excellent eye at the plate. There have been concerns about his makeup (mentioned above), as well as his conditioning, as he came back from his suspension a bit out of shape. He's not likely to provide value on the basepaths, with a token stolen base or two per year at most. Defensively, he's limited to first base, as the Phillies tried him in a corner outfield spot to little success, and this puts pressure on his bat to be even more productive to provide value to the big league club. He definitely has the potential to be an above-average contributor at first base though, with 25+ home run seasons possible.
What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?
There are realistically two players ahead of Singleton on the depth chart, as Brett Wallace is expected to be the starting first baseman and slugger Chris Carter will start at DH most days. With those players both on the major league roster, it would not surprise me if Singleton was held down at least the first month or two in part to avoid the Super-2 arbitration deadline.
When Could He Arrive?
If Wallace struggles this year, it's likely that Singleton will be the player called up to take his spot in the lineup. I would be a bit surprised if he wasn't up at some point this year, especially now that he is on the 40-man roster.
What Can He Do When He Gets There?
Singleton should slot in between .270-.280 in batting average, to go with 20-25 home runs on a consistent basis. He should slot in the heart of the Astros' order, and have solid opportunities for RBIs behind the team's tablesetters.
Singleton may be the only first base prospect we have in the top 100 of our consensus prospect rankings in February, as he has the potential to be a top 15 first baseman each year once he is established in the Majors. While the questions surrounding his makeup are a bit concerning, I think he'll rebound this year and establish himself as the starter in Houston before the end of the season. He'll likely return to AAA Oklahoma City to start the year, but I think he'll be up by the time teams return from the All-Star break.
Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonsbaseball