Astros prospect Jon Singleton. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, June 05, 2014 7:08 PM
The Astros are gambling on their future.
That’s not a bad idea when you take a look at the club’s recent past.
So with the future in mind, the Astros, losers of 100-plus games in each of the last three seasons, called up Jon Singleton.
The young, slugging first baseman paid early dividends when he blasted a home run in his first game Tuesday night against the Angels.
It came during a 7-2 victory that was Houston’s eighth in 10 games.
While it’s way too early to start planning any parades, the Astros are showing signs of improvement, with more young help and another No. 1 draft pick on the way.
Houston is once again on the clock as the baseball’s annual selection, or better called crapshoot, starts tonight.
While a good deal of attention will be placed on who the Astros take, it was what the club did before bringing up Singleton on Tuesday that’s far more interesting.
It was even more interesting than Singleton homering in his big league debut, though, that caught the eye of his skipper.
“That’s pretty impressive,” Astros 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.”
What is more impressive is what Singleton took to the bank before ever stepping up to bat in the majors.
The Astros inked their No. 3 prospect to a five-year deal with a three-year option that guarantees Singleton at least $10 million if he never hit a home run.
That’s what had most of baseball scratching its head.
Singleton might be worth it. For a team trying to build from the abyss the deal might be worth it.
If Singleton is what the Astros hope, he could end up being a steal. The contract could be worth up to $30 million with incentives.
But there are risks involved. With no sample size, the Astros can only project what Singleton will do in the majors. It’s their best educated guess.
“Our coaches and our scouts believe that he will be successful against both sides and it will allow him to play every day, and defensively he’s a very good first baseman,” Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow said on the team’s website.
“He’s still young, he’s still getting better and I think his future is very bright,” Luhnow said.
The Astros’ future looks bright as well, with Singleton joining George Springer, who is also off to a fast start after being called up.
But there are also issues with Singleton that make this a gamble.
Singleton was suspended for the first 50 games last season following his second consecutive failed marijuana test and he struggled at times when he returned to Triple-A.
During spring training he admitted to being a drug addict who has struggled with marijuana and alcohol abuse. He said he enjoyed smoking weed and spent time in rehab last year, though, he said at the time he hadn’t smoked the drug in more than a year.
That’s what really makes this such a gamble.
It’s one thing to bring young stars into a locker room that has a solid group of veterans to steer them away from trouble. The Astros don’t have that.
What they do have is a fan base that’s tired of losing and is craving for a return to the playoff days of a decade ago.
Singleton could become a big part of just such a return. Or …
Luhnow and the Astros believe that his troubles are all behind Singleton.
In fact, they are gambling on it.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org