The Houston Astros decided to cut bait on former top prospect Jon Singleton last Saturday. Now, the Colorado Rockies have a chance to buy low on a player that seemed destined for stardom just a few years ago.
The average baseball fan is probably more familiar with Singleton for his contract than for his play on the field. When Houston released Singleton, both Yahoo Sports and CBS Sports mentioned Singleton’s “unprecedented” deal in the headline of their articles reporting on his release.
Some background: Singleton was drafted out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies, and immediately started tearing up older competition in the minor leagues. Singleton eventually became the centerpiece of the trade that sent Hunter Pence from Houston to Philly. Many believed it was only a matter of time before he became a fixture in the Astros lineup.
The path to stardom has never been a smooth one for Singleton though. Before his senior year in high school, Singleton was considered one of the draft’s top high school bats. But a disappointing season led to him dropping all the way into the eighth round.
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Even as Singleton was establishing himself as a top prospect, there were red flags cropping up off the field. Singleton tested positive for marijuana three different times; the third resulting in a 50-game suspension and a month-long trip to rehab. Singleton spoke openly about using marijuana “off and on” dating back to when he was just 14 years old.
Despite the issues, most still thought that Singleton’s arrival as an MLB regular was only a matter of when, not if. The Astros added him to 40-man roster at the end of the 2013 season. Then, in June of 2014, they signed Singleton to a 5-year, $10 million contract. The deal was the first (and to date, only) of it’s kind, easily the largest contract ever given to a drafted player with no MLB experience.
The day after the extension was signed, Singleton was in the starting lineup and homered for his first MLB hit. And that, unfortunately, was the high point. Singleton hit just .168 while striking out in over a third of his at-bats in 2014.
Houston put Singleton in Triple-A to start 2015, likely hoping that he would force their hand with a hot start. Instead, Singleton’s numbers regressed, and he spent most of the season in the minors. In 2016, the bottom fell out for Singleton, hitting just .202 in 124 Triple-A games.
Obviously, the contract looks ridiculous in hindsight. Lost in that however, is the fact that the Astros were widely praised for the move at the time. When Singleton put ink to paper on the extension, industry experts predicted they would save millions in future arbitration payments. The fact that Houston is now being mocked for the deal is a textbook example of hindsight bias.
More interestingly for the Rockies and other teams however, is what this means now for Singleton.