Tag: Jon Singleton

Gattis Tucker

Settling the Scores: Wednesday’s results


So much trade stuff to sift through that I’m going with an express recap this morning.

As for last night’s action: The Troutless Angels dropped another one to the Astros, who regain the lead in the AL West. Lance McCullers pitched seven solid innings and Preston Tucker and Jon Singleton homered. Albert Pujols hit his 30th home run of the season in a winning effort in a losing cause.

This is the latest the Astros have led their division since Sept. 21, 2003. The division then was the NL Central. Which I sometimes forget they’re no longer a part of, but that’s what being old will do to a guy. The rest of the scores:

Indians 12, Royals 1
Tigers 2, Rays 1
Pirates 10, Twins 4
Cubs 3, Rockies 2
Diamondbacks 8, Mariners 2
Giants 5, Brewers 0
Blue Jays 8, Phillies 2
White Sox 9, Red Sox 2
Padres 7, Mets 3
Nationals 7, Marlins 2
Orioles 2, Braves 0
Astros 6, Angels 3
Rangers 5, Yankees 2
Reds 1, Cardinals 0
Dodgers 10, Athletics 7

Astros demote first baseman Jon Singleton to Triple-A

Jonathan Singleton Getty

Jon Singleton hit .168 in 95 games as a rookie last season and the Astros added several first base/designated hitter/corner outfield options during the offseason, so this isn’t exactly a huge shock: Singleton has been sent back to Triple-A.

As bad as Singleton looked last year–and it was ugly, with 134 strikeouts in 362 trips to the plate–he’s still just 23 years old and ranked as a top-100 prospect by Baseball America in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. He still has plenty of upside as a low-average slugger, but the Astros have hopes of taking a big step forward this season and they’re not as willing to sit through more growing pains from Singleton.

If he crushes Triple-A pitching he’ll be back soon enough.

2015 Preview: Houston Astros

Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch Astros

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Houston Astros.

The Big Question: Are the Astros ready to contend?

This is Year 5 of the Astros’ scorched-earth rebuilding plan that has seen them lose 106, 107, 111, and 92 games while overhauling the front office, firing a pair of managers, ditching veterans, and stockpiling young talent. Last year’s 70-92 record was the fourth-worst in baseball and might suggest it’ll be another long season in 2015, but the Astros made big strides in the second half and added plenty of veteran help via trades and signings this offseason.

Clearly general manager Jeff Luhnow believes the Astros are ready to take a big step forward.

Houston went 34-38 over the final 72 games of the season, including 20-20 for the final six weeks. And then they started adding pieces. They traded for slugger Evan Gattis, remodeled the bullpen by signing Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson, picked up a starting shortstop by bringing Jed Lowrie back into the fold as a free agent, added Colby Rasmus to the outfield and Luis Valbuena to the infield, traded for a backup catcher in Hank Conger, and gave the rotation depth a boost with Dan Straily and Roberto Hernandez.

None of those are championship-making moves, certainly, but most of them were made with the short-term good of the team in mind and together they clearly signal a shift from full-on rebuilding mode to actually building something. Last season’s five best players–Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Chris Carter, Collin McHugh–are all still around and all 28 years old or younger. And stockpiling young talent in the minors has already started to show some dividends, with another wave of high-end prospects on the way soon led by back-to-back No. 1 picks Carlos Correa and Mark Appel.

Houston will be better in 2016 than in 2015 and better still in 2017, but the Astros have a chance to be a .500 team this season if a few things break right for them.

What else is going on?

  • Houston’s bullpen ranked dead last in baseball last season with a 4.80 ERA. Luhnow tried to address that problem in a huge way by making serious runs as big-ticket free agent relievers David Robertson and Andrew Miller. Those attempts fell short, but the Neshek-Gregerson duo is a damn good consolation prize. They combined to throw 140 innings with a 1.99 ERA and 127/24 K/BB ratio last season and both right-handers have a career ERA under 3.00. Toss in Chad Qualls and Josh Fields from the right side and Tony Sipp and Joe Thatcher from the left side and the Astros’ bullpen may actually be a strength.
  • Dallas Keuchel came out of nowhere last season to rank as one of the league’s best left-handers, throwing 200 innings with a 2.93 ERA and winning a Gold Glove award. He was the easy pick to start Opening Day and his ability to avoid turning back into a pumpkin is one of the biggest keys to the Astros’ season. Keuchel is a ground-ball machine and gets a decent number of strikeouts, which is always a winning combo, but prior to 2014 he had a 5.20 ERA in the majors and a 4.74 ERA at Triple-A through age 25.
  • Springer immediately lived up to the hype in his (injury-shortened) debut, but fellow top prospect Jon Singleton struggled mightily by hitting .168 with 134 strikeouts in 95 games during his first taste of the big leagues. Singleton cracked Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list four times and seems all but certain to hit for big-time power eventually, but his lowly .241 batting average at Triple-A combined with tons of strikeouts mean he still has a lot to prove as an all-around hitter.
  • Lots of power and lots of strikeouts is basically the story of the Astros’ entire lineup, even more so than last year when they led the AL in strikeouts and ranked third in homers. And the amazing thing is that Altuve had the most plate appearances on the team with 707–a hundred more than anyone else–and struck out just 53 times. It may not always be pretty and will lead to some extended slumps, but for the most part strikeouts are just a type of out rather than something to be avoided at all costs and Luhnow sacrificing contact in the name of adding elite power at a time when it’s particularly tough to find is an intriguing strategy. They could top 200 homers for the first time since 2001 and just the third time in franchise history.

Prediction: Another step forward to 75-plus wins, another avoidance of last place, and enough progress to convince everyone they’ll contend for the playoffs in 2016.

The Astros’ Evan Gattis: “Who cares about the strikeouts if you win the World Series?”

astros logo

This is one of those quintessential spring training stories.

Jayson Stark catches up with the Astros, who have assembled an all-or-nothing sort of team. Already a pretty strikeout prone bunch with Chris Carter, Jon Singleton, George Springer and Jason Castro, Houston has added Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus and Luis Valbuena to their lineup. That’s gonna be a lot of whiffs.

But, as Stark notes, it could also mean a lot of dingers. And, based on this Evan Gattis quote, a lot of optimism:

“We’ll see, you know?” he laughed Monday. “Stay tuned. We’ll find out. But I think we’ll score a lot of runs. And if you do, you win a lot. Who cares about the strikeouts if you win the World Series?”

I wouldn’t bet money on that, but Gattis is paid to think positively about his and his team’s abilities, so no harm done. Still, as a fan of a team that has been pretty all or nothing the past couple of seasons in the strikeout/home run department, it’ll be either really cool or really frustrating to watch the Astros this year.

Where have all the superstar left-handed hitters gone?

Robinson Cano

Last night’s Home Run Derby included just one left-handed hitter (Justin Morneau) among the eight contestants and tonight’s All-Star game will feature only two left-handed hitters (Chase Utley, Robinson Cano) among the 18 starters.

So where did all of the star-caliber left-handed and switch-hitters go, exactly?

Looking back to last year, the All-Star game starting lineups featured left-handed bats Cano, Chris Davis, David Ortiz, Joe Mauer, Carlos Beltran, Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, and Bryce Harper. Injuries knocked most of those guys out of consideration this season.

Going back two years, the All-Star game starting lineups in 2012 featured left-handed hitters Cano, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Votto, Beltran, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Rafael Furcal, and Curtis Granderson.

In other words, yeah, this season is a whole lot different.

Of course, it’s worth noting that this year’s All-Star game reserves include quite a few left-handed bats in Victor Martinez, Charlie Blackmon, Matt Carpenter, Freddie Freeman, Dee Gordon, Miguel Montero, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rizzo, Erick Aybar, Michael Brantley, Brandon Moss, Kyle Seager. And switch-hitting Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was chosen as a starter, but won’t be playing due to an injury.

So there are plenty of left-handed-hitting All-Stars, just not many left-handed-hitting superstars, or at least not many left-handed-hitting superstars who’ve been both healthy and at the top of their respective games this season.

Who are some young left-handed and switch-hitters capable of emerging as perennial All-Star starters? Bryce Harper stands out, certainly, but beyond that there aren’t many 25-and-under left-handed hitters currently in the big leagues who strike me as sure-fire future superstars. Guys like Dickerson, Freeman, Rizzo, Lonnie Chisenhall, Matt Adams, Billy Hamilton, Christian Yelich, Jason Heyward, Kolten Wong, Eric Hosmer, Rougned Odor, Oswaldo Arcia, Jon Singleton, and Jackie Bradley Jr. certainly have big-time potential, but who knows?

It really does seem like we’re in a bit of a lull in terms of superstar left-handed hitters and that might continue for a while until a few prospects like Oscar Taveras, Gregory Polanco, Francisco Lindor, and Joey Gallo start taking over and/or former MVPs and MVP candidates like Votto, Mauer, Gonzalez, and Fielder get back on track.