No. 3 prospect notches first RBI with walk, then goes yard in eighth inning of debut
HOUSTON -- No one was more giddy to see Jon Singleton in an Astros uniform that teammate George Springer -- and that was before the home run.
The two sluggers have become close friends playing alongside each other in the Minor League system the past few years, and for many Astros fans, they represent the future of a franchise on the climb. Springer has been so dazzling in his debut he was named American League Rookie of the Month on Tuesday.
While Singleton's debut started somewhat shaky, it certainly didn't end that way. Singleton's first career Major League hit was a solo shot to right field off Angels reliever Matt Shoemaker in the eighth inning of the Astros' 7-2 victory at Minute Maid Park.
"That's pretty impressive," manager Bo Porter said. "For your first Major League hit to be a home run, and it was a no doubt about it home run as well."
Singleton's day was not perfect, however. He committed two errors at first base and struck out twice. His first career RBI came off a bases loaded walk in a five-run third inning for Houston. He finished 1-for-3 with one hit, two RBIs, one run and one walk while batting sixth.
"I can't even go into words to describe how good it feels like," Singleton said.
Singleton gave the home run ball to his mother, who has a collection of other landmark baseballs and trophies from his career.
"He's put in the hard work, he's been very devoted and dedicated," Singleton's mother, Sherry, said. "He's been rewarded by the fruits of his labor, and we are grateful."
While Singleton sat at his locker at Minute Maid Park for the first time Tuesday and prepared himself for his first Major League game after signing a long-term contract a day earlier, Springer was asked what Astros fans can expect from his buddy.
"Get your popcorn ready," Springer said. "He can change the game at any time. He's going to learn and adjust and experience things and find out who he is as a hitter and he's going to adjust on the fly. I promise you, he's legit."
Singleton's arrival in Houston signaled another brick in the foundation for the rebuilding Astros, who are starting to tap more often into the highest ranked Minor League system in baseball.
The Astros announced on Monday they had signed Singleton, their No. 3 prospect, to a five-year contract with three club options that could keep him in an Astros uniform through 2021. The 22-year-old hit .267 with 37 runs, 10 doubles, 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 54 games. He had 42 walks and a .397 on-base percentage and showed great strike-zone discipline.
"What really led up to [the contract] is me getting out here and wanting to play baseball," Singleton said. "That's the biggest thing. I love the game, and any time you eliminate everything else and just go out and play ball and have fun, that's the biggest part of it."
The Astros had been using a platoon at first base for much of this season with right-hander Jesus Guzman and left-hander Marc Krauss, but not with good results. Singleton will become the starter at first base and should provide the power the Astros have been missing at the position.
"From an offensive standpoint, we have not clicked on all cylinders at this point in the season so far," Porter said. "Putting a guy like Jonathan Singleton in our lineup every day and what he is capable of doing, it's going to boost the production of our offense, but at the same time, the team is going to respond. We're not asking him to carry the team. He's going to be one of 25 guys and do his part."
Coming off a successful May in which the Astros posted their first winning record in a full month in nearly four years, the arrival of Singleton is another boost to the organization, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
"It's a lot of fun to have this youth injected into the game right now, guys that are ready to contribute and help us win games and ultimately win a championship," Luhnow said.
Singleton learned of his callup while sitting on the couch in the clubhouse prior to Sunday's game in Oklahoma City. He hopped on a flight to Houston and took a physical before signing his contract, which is worth $10 million for five years at its base. He said he'll have his family in the stands tonight.
"It's been an overwhelming sensation since," Singleton said. "I honestly had no idea how long it would take for me to get here, but with hard work and dedication, anything is possible."
The contract represented the culmination of a roller coaster 18 months for Singleton, who was suspended for the first 50 games of last season following his second consecutive failed marijuana test. He wound up spending most of the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City and hit .220 with six homers and 31 RBIs in 73 games, prompting him to go to Puerto Rico last winter to get in more work.
"He wanted to go to winter ball and continue to get better and get more experience and really make up for the time he missed," Luhnow said. "He went to Puerto Rico and had a terrific winter, and came into Spring Training ready to compete and we really felt like he needed another 100 to 150 at-bats in Triple-A to see more successful results before we felt he would be truly ready to be here every day.
"He did that. He went down there, and for the last two months, he's performed. We feel like he's doing everything he needs to do to prove to us at his very young age that he's ready to continue it at the big league level for the rest of his career."
Springer, whose locker is just two away from Singleton, says he plans to tell Singleton to slow the game down and not try to do too much in his first few games. He's speaking from experience. Springer struggled mightily when he was called up April 16 before leading all AL rookies in homers (10), RBIs (25), runs (22) and slugging percentage (.647) in May.
"He's a guy that can change the game with one swing any time, and I'm excited to have him in there today," Springer said.
For now, Singleton is simply soaking in life as a Major Leaguer.
"It's definitely been a work in progress every day, and it's been leading up to today," he said. "Today is one of the happiest days of my life."