Report: Astros call up top prospect Jon Singleton and sign him to long-term contract worth up to $35 million

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Six weeks after calling up George Springer from Triple-A the Astros are set to promote another stud hitting prospect to the big leagues, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports that first baseman Jon Singleton is on his way up from Triple-A.

And here’s where it gets even more interesting: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Astros and Singleton have agreed to a long-term contract that guarantees him at least $10 million and could be worth up to $35 million. Handing out long-term deals to inexperienced players has become increasingly popular in recent years, but to do so the day you call a prospect up from the minors is taking things to another level.

Houston reportedly tried to do that same thing with Springer before calling him up and Pittsburgh is said to have tried to do the same with Gregory Polanco, but both of those prospects balked at the idea. Passan says if the Astros pick up all three options in the deal they’ll control Singleton through his first year of free agency.

Singleton was acquired from the Phillies in the mid-2011 trade for Hunter Pence and ranked as a top-100 prospect according to Baseball America and MLB.com heading into this season. He’s improved his stock further by hitting .267 with 14 homers and a .941 OPS in 54 games at Triple-A as a 22-year-old, making big strides with his strike zone control to lead the Pacific Coast League with 42 walks.

Houston’s first basemen have been awful this season, hitting a combined .181 with five homers and a .561 OPS in 58 games, so it won’t take a whole lot for Singleton to provide a big upgrade. Meanwhile, after struggling initially Springer is hitting .259 with 10 homers and an .844 OPS in 41 games overall, playing a huge part in the Astros’ recent turnaround.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.