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Astros - The Singleton Experience

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

The Astros fan base has been screaming for the team to do one thing to help the offense- promote Jon Singleton.

Today, it appears that the Astros are indeed promoting Jon Singleton. Fans of this team that predate the dynastic run will remember the promise and ultimately the disappointment of Singleton- who it seemed loved marijuana more than baseball. For Astros fans watching the rise of the team in 2014-2015 it was the Singleton experience. He's Back! At age 31, what will Astros fans experience now with the older wiser Singleton? The answer may be very exciting. You may also want to read what I said about Singleton when the Astros signed him to a minor league deal in June.

I had been telling people in multiple forums that this would happen AFTER the trade deadline. The MAIN reason for that is tied to one thing. Jon Singleton cannot be optioned back to AAA if he does not perform in the MLB. This is what happened earlier this year with Singleton and the Brewers. I always felt like the Astros would wait to see if they could trade for a surer bet than Singleton, and if they could not, bring him up then. I also thought the Astros wanted to wait long enough that IF Singleton did struggle in his part time role, that the team would have the option to expand the roster on September 1st, and not risk losing Singleton to a DFA.

One might be asking one of two questions:

  1. Why is this such a big deal? Singleton was cut by the Brewers and no one else wanted him.

  2. Why are the Astros being so slow in making this happen? Singleton is their ONLY GOOD hitting AAA player.

Why are the Astros being so slow in making this happen? As we said in June, the Astros are a better hitting team vs. LHP (wRC+ 114) than they are vs. RHP (wRC+ 99). Singleton is their ONLY GOOD hitting AAA player.

In the matter of a month, we might realize it was a waste of time or it could be the critical addition to propel the Astros into the postseason. The crazy thing is that 80 percent of this fan base will have strong opinions in each camp. I am going to try to describe what I THINK will be the middle road and the most likely one too.

What one believes about Jon Singleton now is largely tied to what they believe about projecting AAA to the MLB and what they think about small sample size experience.

Here are the recent data for Singleton.

Singleton recent career

In the Brewers AAA in 2022 and 2023, Singleton was a very good hitter. and he was walking a ton. In 2023, it even appeared that his strikeouts were under control. Then he came to Milwaukee from 6/3/23 to 6/14/23. It was a disaster. He struck out a ton, had almost no power, and his OPS was 0.326. The Brewers, after 32 PA, released him. No one seemed to pay attention to the 0.167 BABIP nor the 104.2 max exit velocity.

The Astros, with limited 1B/DH top prospects took a chance on 6/24/23 and signed Singleton to a minor league deal. In 148 PA, Singleton has been having the best prolonged minor league hitting stretch in his career - that is saying a lot. There are warning signs. His 0.368 Houston AAA BABIP is unsustainable. His strikeout rate is pretty high for AAA (62 out of 136 for PCL players with more than 140 PA).

The projection systems generally model Singleton to hit between 87- 95 wRC+ for the rest of the 2023 MLB season. Before rejecting that and thinking what a waste of time, ask yourself what have the Astros been getting from 1B and Jose Abreu (77). While Abreu was significantly above average in June and July as I showed in my defense of him recently, in the first week of August he is having a terrible month so far. Is it also possible that the Astros were just holding on to Singleton as Abreu insurance? What if THEY know something is wrong with Jose Abreu now, and THAT is what is driving this promotion timing? I have no idea if that is true, but it will become clearer in how Singleton is used.

IF Abreu is fine, Singleton STILL represents a very good platoon partner possibility to give Abreu more rest. Do not let me lose you in what I show you next. I will put this on video tonight too.

I have a default position that one can project the OPS of a AAA player to the MLB by multiplying the AAA OPS by 80%. The table below shows the projected data for Singleton and the actual data for Diaz and Abreu vs. RHP and LHP. Applying that ratio to Singleton would mean that one might expect Singleton to hit 0.700 OPS vs. LHP and 0.814 OPS vs. RHP.

Astros 1B Platoon splits

The next column translates that OPS into a wOBA number. If we then compare that projected wOBA for Singleton with actual current xwOBA numbers for Abreu and Diaz, we get very interesting results.

Before we reach conclusions let's take the analysis one step deeper.

Astros platoon pitch splits

For Abreu and Diaz we can see their xwOBA per pitch type. We are going to keep this a at pitch group level to avoid too small of sample sizes.

As we have discussed all year long, Abreu has a breaking pitch and offspeed pitch problem. The data for breaking pitches in June was better but I am not sure if that was a fluke. I am sure this is something the Astros are monitoring.

Despite what Dusty said about Diaz vs. LHP, he actually rakes vs. LH breaking and offspeed pitches. When facing RHP, Diaz SHOULD be the only catcher, but that is a different subject.

I don't have access to this kind of data for Singleton in AAA. The Astros do. Perhaps they were also waiting for that data to stabilize and now it has. I think one can project a very good platoon/ usage model at first 1B/ DH given what I have showed here.

Astros 1B Usage grid

Depending on what is the dominant pitch of the starting pitcher will set who should be the starting 1B on that night.

Singleton should play either 1B or DH vs. many RHSP. Will the Astros be this aggressive with the platoon? I doubt it. We will see.

The Jon Singleton Experience - the 2023 edition begins tomorrow. I think we see a good but not great Singleton. That Singleton will be an upgrade offensively at 1B from what the Astros have gotten from Abreu ESPECIALLY vs. RHP. To be clear, Abreu is not going anywhere; but Singleton can help him be better with more rest.

Several folks have asked who the Astros should DFA to add Singleton to the 40-man roster.

The candidates in my mind are.

Reports today indicate the Astros have chosen to DFA Madris. To me this indicates that the front office views others in the system as better in both OF and 1B. They are right about that despite the batting of most of the Sugar Land team.

Players in green have appeared (or soon will) on the Astros this year.

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