On July 29, 2011, the Phillies made yet another significant trade to bolster their roster. The move was made in an attempt for one final push at a World Series title with an aging roster. The team acquired Hunter Pence from the then-abysmal Houston Astros, who received a plethora of young talent in return. The Phillies sent Domingo Santana, Jarred Cosart, and Josh Zeid to the Astros to complete the trade. But one of the gems of the deal, perhaps the player that fans were most upset about surrendering, was Jonathan Singleton, the burly first baseman who many believed would be the incumbent’s Ryan Howard eventual replacement.
The year prior, Singleton spent his 19-year-old season with the Lakewood Blue Claws, where he hit .290, with a near .400 on base percentage. In 104 games, Singleton hit 14 homeruns and drove in 77 runs. The sky was the limit for the young first baseman. He was ranked as the Phillies’ second best prospect prior to the 2011 season.
After being traded to the Astros’ organization, the first baseman was ranked as the Astros’ top prospect. Singleton continued to see success, as he hit a, to date, career high 21 homeruns and drove in 79 RBIs on his way to a .284 campaign with the AA Corpus Christi Hooks.
That’s when things began to unravel for the top prospect. In June, 2012, Singleton tested positive for marijuana use and was suspended for the first time in his career. Later that year, he tested positive once more and was banned for the first 50 games of the upcoming 2013 season. Despite the drug use, Singleton and the Astros agreed to a five-year extension worth $10 million guaranteed. Singleton became the first player in MLB history to sign a contract extension without having any Major League experience. Six years later, the Phillies made Scott Kingery the second player to get such an extension when he signed prior to the start of this season.
Singleton made his MLB debut the following season. He hit a homerun in his first Major League game, driving in two runs. The downside to Singleton’s game appeared in his debut, as he went 1-3 with said homerun, but two strikeouts. In 95 games played that season, Singleton hit just .168, striking out 134 times. He did drive in 44 runs and walked 50 times.
After a rough first season in the Major Leagues, Singleton was sent back to AAA Fresno for a majority of the 2015 season. He appeared in just 19 big league games, playing 102 games in the minor leagues. In his 19 MLB games, Singleton was slightly better, hitting .191. He hit just one homerun in 19 games, though, driving in six runs. He also struckout at a high rate, punching out 17 times in 19 games. His struggles continued into 2017, when Singleton did not appear in the Major Leagues, playing all 124 games in the minor leagues. He struckout 124 times in 124 games, hitting just .202 while hitting 20 homeruns.
At the end of the season, Singleton was placed on outright waivers by the Astros. He cleared waivers, and was optioned to AA Corpus Christi, where he was taken off the 40 man roster. This past week, Singleton tested positive for a third time for drug use. He was handed a 100 game suspension, and was subsequently released by the Houston Astros.
With Singleton’s struggles being well documented, looking back at the Hunter Pence traded doesn’t hurt us as much as it did when the deal was concocted. Singleton will likely have a tough time finding a team that is willing to give him a shot when his suspension is over. While he had had a ton of power throughout his career, a combination of drug use and high strikeout rates will likely make it hard for Singleton to continue his playing career in the minor leagues.
AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)