It's been a long and hard fall from grace for the prospect that was once considered to be in the same prestige as George Springer and Carlos Correa. In 2013, MLB.com ranked Jonathan Singleton as the Astros' top prospect, as well as the #19 prospects in all of baseball. In 2014, he didn't even make the list.
Hailing from Long Beach California, Singleton was originally drafted out of high-school in the eight round of the 2009 draft by the Phillies. Singleton was projected to go earlier, but weak Senior-year statistics dropped his draft stock. It didn't take him long to rise the ranks, though. In 31 Rookie-League games, he batted .290/.395/.440 with a 152 wRC+. The next year, he batted .288/.392/.477 with 14 homers and a 145 wRC+ in a full-season of Single-A ball. People were starting to take notice.
In 2011, the Astros acquired Jon Singleton in exchange for Hunter Pence along with Jared Cosart, Josh Zeid, and Domingo Santana. The talented left-handed 1st-baseman was hitting for power and average while showing tremendous patience at the plate and great on base skills, and the Astros were sold. He took off when he joined the team, as he batted .333/.405/.512 in his first year with the Astros' High-A Jethawks.
Singleton was subsequently ranked the 32nd best prospect in baseball after being a relatively under-the-radar prospect, as scouts lauded the already impressive productivity and power the young player possessed. It seemed like the sky was the limit for the Astros newly acquired gem, and fans suffering from 100 loss season-after-season were buzzed about the ceiling of Singleton. But things didn't go quiet as expected.
Prior to the 2012 season, Singleton twice failed a drug-test for Marijuana and was suspended for his first 50 games. It was an unfortunate step-back for such a rapidly-rising player, who admittedly still smoked every single day even after failing his first drug-test during the 2012 season. After his second failed drug test, he met with former Astros manager Bo Porter, a therapist, and subsequently underwent a one-month rehab stay.
Singleton struggled in rehab and battled through withdrawals. "It was really bad," Singleton later said. "They would turn off the lights at 11:30, and I would just sit there and stare at the ceiling because I couldn't go to sleep. My heart was beating too fast. I would get night sweats."
The following season was a struggle, as Singleton batted .220/.340/.347. His poor performance caused anxiety and depression problems, which led to him abusing alcohol in lieu of marijuana. Singleton admittedly got drunk every day, and "[woke] up hung over over every morning."
However, over the off season Singleton made a commitment to sobering up and playing to the best of his ability. Singleton was open, honest, and mature about his personal struggles with addiction, and was ready to get back on the right path entering 2014. This proved true, as he batted .267/.397/.554 and hit 14 homers in just 54 games before being promoted to the Majors.
Unfortunately, the Majors would not prove to be kind to Singleton. He struggled in his first major league season for the Astros, as he batted just .168 in 95 games. In the following year, Singleton slightly regressed in Triple-A and once again failed to find his footing in the Majors. He batted .191 in 19 games, and fans were starting to wonder if the pressure was getting to their once highly-touted prospect.
In 2016, Singleton fell off a cliff. In 124 games with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies Singleton batted just .202/.337/.390 and failed to be called up to the Majors. Fair or not, one might suspect that the pressure and anxieties caused by his poor performance perhaps led him back to substance and alcohol abuse.
Now with Spring Training just under-way and 2017 looming, Singleton is a relatively forgotten man. Singleton was removed from the 40-man roster in the off-season, and was even waived in November, but cleared waivers and was re-assigned to Triple-A Fresno. With Tyler White and AJ Reed in the fold, it will be tough for Singleton to carve out Minor-League playing time, much-less be promoted to the Majors.
However, Singleton once again took full responsibility. "I had a down year, very down year in my opinion... There's no one to blame but myself," he told reporters.
As Luhnow said, Singleton will have to earn his way back into the Astros' good graces, but everyone gets a chance in Spring Training. Singleton has received just 3 at-bats so far, but has already recorded a hit, a walk, an RBI, and a run. He has a lot of ground to make-up, but if he carries a strong Spring into Minors he may just insert himself back into the Astros first-base conversation.
Realistically, its a long shot Singleton has another at bat for the Houston Astros in the Majors. Personally, however, I'll be rooting for him. His off-the-field incidents have also come with some great moments of maturity and remorse, and you know the talent is still there somewhere. He is someone to monitor during this year's Spring Training down in West Palm.