Colorado Rockies: The Case For Signing Jon Singleton
By Nolan Lees
The last two years have been ugly, but there have still been flashes of the guy that was once considered one of baseball’s best young hitters.
Singleton is the definition of a “Three True Outcomes” hitter, meaning his plate appearances are extremely likely to end in either a strikeout, a walk, or a home run.
Even as things have gone wrong for Singleton over the last few seasons, the raw power that caught the eyes of so many scouts hasn’t left him. In just under 800 at-bats over the last two seasons, Singleton has crushed 42 home runs in Triple-A.
Part of Singleton’s prolonged slump at the plate can also be attributed to bad luck. Singleton is a slow runner who swings with a noticeable upper cut, so he’s never going to have a particularly high BABIP, but last season’s mark of .232 still seems suspiciously low, especially for a guy who seems to have no problem generating exit velocity.
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The biggest flaw in Singleton’s game is no mystery: he swings and misses far more than you would like. Singleton has 357 official MLB at-bats, and 151 of them (or a staggering 42.3 percent) have ended with him turning around and walking back to the dugout after strike three. It doesn’t matter how strong a hitter is if they’re having that hard of a time just making contact.
But writing Singleton off as a lost cause might be a mistake. It’s easy to forget because he’s been playing professionally for seven years now, but Singleton is still a young man. Born in September of 1991, he’s just 25 years old, half a year younger than Rockies catching prospect Tom Murphy. It’s not unreasonable to believe Singleton could mature both as a ballplayer and as a person over the next few years.
About six years ago, the Texas Rangers demoted a player with an extremely similar profile to Singleton. This player was a star first base prospect who still had the power to crush long home runs, but his lack of contact had torpedoed his confidence and his batting average. Out of patience with the 25-year old slugger, the Rangers shipped him to Baltimore in a move to shore up their bullpen.
And that, in short, is the story of how Baltimore acquired Chris Davis, one of the game’s most feared power hitters, in exchange for an aging, injury-prone reliever.
Now, this is obviously a best-case comparison, and it’s worth noting that even at his peak, Singleton never destroyed Triple-A pitching in the way Davis did prior to his big break in Baltimore. But there are enough similarities that it’s not hard to picture Singleton, given the right set of circumstances, turning into at least a poor man’s version of Davis.
It just so happens that the Rockies have just about the perfect set-up for SIngleton. They’re a mostly young team that looks mostly ready to compete, minus a gaping hole at first base. And of course, if Singleton can stick at the MLB level, there are few parks better for a power hitter than Coors Field.
It’s also fair to wonder if playing in a lineup as deep as Colorado’s would take some of the pressure off of Singleton. In Houston, he was asked to step into the middle of a mostly bad lineup and be a leader. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a kid who was 22 years old when he made his MLB debut. In Colorado, Singleton could hit further down in the order, where the expectations would be much more reasonable.
Baseball is, by design, a game of failure. About 90 percent of players signed by MLB organizations will never reach the majors, and even among that lucky 10 percent, most will only last for a short time before being replaced by someone new. Success is promised to no one, not even the guys at the top of the prospect ranking lists.
It’s possible that Singleton has strayed too far from the path to return to stardom. He certainly wouldn’t be the first or last prospect to do so. But there’s also a chance that Singleton’ path just isn’t as straight as we originally thought, and a change of scenery could rejuvenate the career of a guy still barely old enough to rent a car.
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