KANSAS CITY -- The Astros were interested in Jonathan Singleton long before they brought him into their organization, long before MLB.com rated him their No. 1 prospect
this season, long before he started at first base and batted fifth for the United States team at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
As the 2010 trading deadline approached, talks with the Phillies regarding veteran right-hander Roy Oswalt were heating up. Singleton was playing first base for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, his path to the majors apparently blocked by Ryan Howard. But the Phillies liked Singleton's bat so much that they dispatched scout Dave Hollins and Minor League hitting coordinator Steve Henderson to the South Atlantic League. Their assignment: Find out if Singleton could play left field.
The report came back positive. The trade was made, but Houston got left-hander J.A. Happ, outfielder Anthony Gose and infielder Jonathan Villar. The Phillies held onto Singleton.
But that wasn't the end of it. A year later, the Phils were back, asking about right fielder Hunter Pence. This time, the Astros insisted on getting Singleton as part of the package. This time, the Phillies relented.
And now Singleton has clearly established himself as Houston's first baseman of the future, especially with veteran Carlos Lee having been traded to the Marlins.
White Sox bench coach Mark Parent managed Singleton at Class A Lakewood in 2010 and recognized his potential even then.
"The thing that jumps out is just strength. He's got just raw power, raw strength," Parent said two springs ago. "His swing is so simple and he gets the head of the bat down through the ball really well. It's a good swing and it's a good approach."
Singleton said he still follows the Phillies, but doesn't dwell on how things might have been different if he had stayed put. "Things happen. Things don't always work out the way you expect them to," he said.
Being traded at midseason was hectic but, beyond that, he said the transition has been smooth. "It hasn't been bad. I didn't know what to expect. But it wasn't hard to adjust at all," he said.
Singleton was perfect in his first four plate appearances, singling in the second, fifth and sixth innings, while also drawing a walk in the fourth in the Futures Game. Singleton's single in the sixth inning drove in a run.
Still just 20 years old, Singleton is batting .271 for Double-A Corpus Christi with 18 doubles, 12 homers and 47 RBIs in 80 games for the Hooks this season. "It's been up and down. It's had its rough spots. But it is what it is. I'm still pushing. I'm just trying to go out and play hard and have fun," he said.
That's a little harsh. Starting in the Futures Game is another milepost in his progress. The Astros expect him to continue to improve. The Astros didn't give up when they were unable to acquire Singleton the first time. Now they got their man, and they're glad they did.