Every Monday through the rest of the minor league season, I'll be taking a look at a prospect who is either at AA or AAA, and could potentially have an impact on your fantasy season this year. Today's prospect was the Astros' representative at yesterday's Futures Game, and had a great game against some excellent pitching yesterday. Acquired last year in the Hunter Pence trade, 1B prospect Jonathan Singleton has starting showing the skills that could make him a top-flight run producer in the Major Leagues.
Even though he is still in AA, there's an outside chance he could be up to the Majors by the end of the season. What could we expect from Singleton when he gets to the Majors, and what does his timeline look like? Read after the jump to find out....
Weight: 235 lbs.
On 40-man Roster: No
Singleton was drafted by the Phillies in the 8th round of the 2009 draft, and was signed for $200,000. Singleton signed soon enough to appear in 31 games for the Phillies' rookie league affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .290/.395/.440. The Phillies gave him a full-season assignment for the 2010 season despite being just 18 years old, sending him to Low-A Lakewood. He jumped onto prospect radars at this point, after hitting .290/.393/.479 with 14 home runs in a league known for its' tendencies towards pitching.
The Phillies moved Singleton up again for the 2011 season, sending him to the Florida State League and High-A. Singleton was hitting .284/.387/.413 with 9 home runs in 93 games when he was traded by the Phillies to the Astros as a part of the Hunter Pence trade. The Astros' High-A affiliate is in Lancaster, where he hit .333/.405/.512 with 4 home runs.
Clearly the Astros thought he was ready for his next challenge, as they sent the 20 year old to AA for this season, and he has rewarded them to the tune of .271/.393/.487 with 12 home runs so far. He even won the Texas League Home-Run derby, and also had 3 hits and a walk in the Futures Game yesterday.
What's Stopping Him From Contributing Now?
Realistically, there are 3 things that in my mind are keeping him from providing solid fantasy production in the Majors:
1. There is absolutely NO incentive for the Astros to bring him up any earlier than late in 2013.
The team isn't going anywhere, so why bother starting his service clock for years where the team will be non-competitive. The team sits at 32-52 as of Friday night's game, good for the #1 overall pick if the season ended today. Any benefit to bringing Singleton up now, at best, makes the team slightly better and still no closer to being a contender.
2. I am a bit concerned with the streakiness of his performance thus far.
Let's take a quick look at his slash line, split by month so far this year (courtesy of Minor League Central):
Mar/Apr: .350/.435/.600 (22 games)
May: .281/.400/.531 (27 games)
June: .148/.317/.235 (25 games)
I'd chalk it up to some small sample size (being just 3 months really), except that his performance in 2011 had some pretty pronounced ups-and-downs as well:
Mar/Apr: .304/.418/.413 (14 games)
May: .247/.327/.330 (28 games)
June: .322/.464/.494 (25 games)
July: .286/.361/.440 (27 games)
August/Sept: .328/.401/.500 (34 games)
While I think that this isn't completely out of the normal range of outcomes for most players, it is a bit concerning to me that a player whose value to his team is almost exclusively related to his bat could have such pronounced differences from month to month.
3. He's a 1B only prospect.
The Phillies tried to have Singleton play in the outfield to see whether or not they could have both him and Ryan Howard on the field at the same time once Singleton gets there, and the reports seem to point to a player who should really, really stick to playing 1B. While it doesn't kill his value as a prospect, it does mean that he's going to have to hit very well to really provide solid value as a fantasy 1B. Just something to keep in mind really.
What Could He Do When He Gets There?
There's still a lot to like here. Singleton looks like he will provide a solid to above-average batting average to go along with solid power production when he gets to the Majors. We're not likely looking at a hitter of 30+ home runs a season, but I think we could be looking at one who hits around .290 with around 20 home runs a season.
When Could He Get To The Show?
Singleton's path seems to me like it will follow the level a year route, and he will finish the 2012 season in AA before being promoted to AAA for 2013. After that, I could see a full season in AAA since the Astros don't appear any more likely to compete for a playoff spot in the American League in 2013 than they are in 2012 in the National League.
Singleton has the potential to be a top 10 first baseman for fantasy purposes in my opinion, but as with most prospects that future may not come immediately upon his arrival. I think he won't arrive until really 2014, but we could see him up for a cup of coffee in 2013.