Former Phillies prospect Singleton suspended 50 games

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Former Phillies prospect Singleton suspended 50 games

Jonathan Singleton, the ascending first base power prospect the Phillies sent to the Astros as part of the 2011 Hunter Pence deal, tested positive for marijuana, he said in a statement released Wednesday, according to MLB.com.

It's a 50-game suspension for Singleton, now a two-time offender. Singleton was the centerpiece of the 2011 Phillies trade with Houston for Pence. The 20-year-old lefty hit .298.392.441 the year of the trade, and this past season hit .284 with a .396 OBP and .497 slugging percentage in his first full season in the Astros' system with Double A Corpus Christie.

"I accept the penalty and take full responsibility for my actions, Singleton said. I apologize to my parents, the Houston Astros and general manager Jeff Luhnow.

The Astros have been nothing but supportive of me and good to me in my short time with the organization. My hope is to use this as a learning experience and spend the rest of my career proving to myself and the baseball community that this was a lapse in judgment, and is not in any way indicative of my character or my dedication to baseball or to my team.

Players on the 40-man rosters of big-league teams are not tested for marijuana, as pointed out by HardballTalk. Singleton, though, wasnt on Houstons 40-man roster.

Singleton was the minors' 34th-best prospect prior to 2012, as rated by Baseball America. Five spots up from No. 39 the previous year. ESPNs Keith Law has him as Houstons second-best prospect.

The Phillies sent Singleton, outfielder Domingo Santana and righthanders Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid to Houston for Pence, who they then traded 367 days later to the Giants for catcher Tommy Joseph, pitcher Seth Rosin and veteran outfielder Nate Schierholtz.

Schierholtz was later non-tendered, meaning the Phillies in essence dealt ...

Singleton,
Santana (2012: .302 batting average, 25 HR and 97 RBI at High-A),
Cosart (6-7, 3.30 ERA, 7.2 K9 in 114.1 innings at AA and AAA), and
Zeid (5.59 ERA, 10.5 strikeouts-per-nine in 47 appearances at Double A)

... for San Franciscos prospects and two half-seasons of Pence, one of which led to a franchise-record 102 wins but a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Cardinals.

The Phillies gave up serious talent in the Pence trade. Santana, the deals player to be named later, is an athletic 19-year-old rightfielder from the Dominican Republic with a strong arm, who had a .921 OPS last season at High-A. The Phils dont have many impact bats in their own system, in part because they dealt two to Houston.

For all the heat former Phillies and Astros GM Ed Wade now a special consultant with the Phils takes for what were once deemed lopsided trades to the Phils, a look back shows a pair that worked out very well for the Astros.

In all, the Phillies traded Wades Astros: Singleton, Santana, Cosart, Zeid, four years of Michael Bourn, Anthony Gose (flipped for Brett Wallace), shortstop Jonathan Villar, J.A. Happ, Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo for Brad Lidge, Eric Bruntlett, Roy Oswalt and Pence.

Salary relief, four projectable major-leaguers and three current big-leaguers in Bourn, Gose and Happ for Lidge, Bruntlett, Oswalt and Pence. The deals are basically equal. Lidge was a key figure in the 2008 World Series, Pence was on a Phils team that went 36-21 in the second half of 11, Oswalt was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in the second half of 2010 and Bruntlett turned an unassisted triple play and hit a World Series home run off David Price. And Houston, which has lost 213 games the last two years and will play its first year in the American League West in 2013, has the makings of its next core.

Singleton will be eligible to return the final week of May.
E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com

Maikel Franco day to day with sore wrist

Maikel Franco day to day with sore wrist

PITTSBURGH -- Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, who was hit on the left wrist by a pitch on Friday night, is not in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates (see lineup).

Franco was hit by a pitch from the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole in the first inning of the Phillies’ 4-0 victory then was removed after hitting a single in the third inning (see story).

“He’s still sore,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Saturday. “He’s day to day. Maybe he will be back in the lineup (Sunday).

Franco suffered a fracture of the same wrist last August when he was hit by a pitch.

Andres Blanco is taking Franco’s place in the lineup after having two hits Friday night when he replaced the third baseman. Blanco is hitting .264 with three home runs in 73 games this season and is reportedly drawing some interest from contending teams looking to add bench help.

“I could see why he would be a desirable player,” Mackanin said. “We’re not going to give him away, though, if we do trade him. He’s played very well for us.”

Today's Lineup: Andres Blanco in, Maikel Franco out after HBP last night

Today's Lineup: Andres Blanco in, Maikel Franco out after HBP last night

After being hit on the wrist by a pitch in Friday's win (see story), Maikel Franco will not play today. Instead, Andres Blanco will take his place, hitting third in the lineup. Blanco was 2 for 2 replacing Franco in the third inning on Friday, with an RBI and a run scored. 

Blanco has been reliable when called upon this season, hitting .264 with a .317 OBP in mostly a utility role.

Other than that, the lineup remains the same as Friday.

Peter Bourjos will leadoff after going 0 for 5 last night, followed by Odubel Herrara. After an All-Star first half, Herrara has hit .211 in July, but seemed to get back on track with three hits on Friday, while scoring two runs. 

After a brutal stretch of games and an extended All-Star break, Aaron Nola returned to form vs. the Marlins last week, tossing six shutout innings. Nola again looks to prove the doubters wrong again today vs. the Pirates, who he has never faced in his brief career. 

Here is tonight's lineup:

1. Peter Bourjos RF
2. Odubel Herrera CF
3. Andres Blanco 3B
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Cameron Rupp C
6. Cody Asche LF
7. Freddy Galvis SS
8. Cesar Hernandez 2B
9. Aaron Nola P

 

Phillies-Pirates 5 things: Star Andrew McCutchen struggling in 2016

Phillies-Pirates 5 things: Star Andrew McCutchen struggling in 2016

Phillies (45-53) vs. Pirates (49-47)
4:05 p.m. on CSN

After Zach Eflin threw his second complete game of his young career on Friday (see game story), Aaron Nola will look to follow it up with a strong start of his own. Opposing him will be the Pirates' top prospect, Tyler Glasnow, in a mid-afternoon matchup with the Phillies

Here's what you should look out for on Saturday.

1. McCutchen in a down season
There is no doubt who is the face of the Pirates' franchise right now. It's Andrew McCutchen.

The 29-year-old outfielder is a five-time All Star, four-time Silver Slugger, the 2013 National League MVP, and led the team that broke a 21-year playoff drought. He's one of the most marketable athletes in baseball right now and the type of player any team would want to build around.

But is he on the decline?

It's a legitimate question to ask. From 2012-2014, McCutchen was arguably the top position player in the National League, posting an average of at least .314, an on-base percentage of at least .400 and a slugging percentage of at least .911 each year.

But 2015 and 2016 have been different. He still hit 23 home runs in 2015 (his peak was 31 in 2012), but his stolen bases went down to 11, a career low, and he posted his lowest average, OBP and slugging percentages since 2011. He was still well above league average of course and the heart of the Pirates' lineup.

Yet 2016 has been possibly his worst yet. He is batting .244/.316/.408 and has an OPS+ of 93, seven worse than league average. He's already struck out 100 times in just 90 games after 133 strikeouts in 157 games last year. He has stolen just three bases and has been caught five times.

Quite simply, the numbers are troubling. He'll need to be a completely different player in the second half, starting very soon, to match his numbers from the past.

2. No runs Nola?
Nola's last start was a long time coming.

After a June in which nothing seemed to work for the righty, he finally seemed to figure things out after a 16-day layoff. He shut down the Marlins for six innings. He allowed just three base runners and no runs, striking out five.

Nola looked better than even his numbers indicate. He was cruising through five innings, having faced the minimum, but had to leave after six after taking a line drive off his throwing shoulder. Nothing to worry, as his exit was merely precautionary.

When the 23-year-old starter is on his game, it's thanks to a dynamite curveball that can produce swings and misses at a high rate. For all the talk of his opponent on Monday (Jose Fernandez), Nola's curve is one of the best in baseball and he used it to strike out five Marlins hitters. 

Where does he go from here? Well, it's tough to expect another shutout-type start, but Nola could be well-suited to face a righty-laden lineup like the Pirates. To truly shake off his bad June and worries about that liner to the arm, a second straight strong start would stave off any doubters.

3. Scouting Glasnow
Glasnow was the No. 10 prospect in all of baseball going into this year, according to MLB.com, so expectations are high for the 22-year-old making his second career start.

His MLB debut wasn't much to write home about. The 6-foot-8 righty took a loss while allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings. He did strike out five St. Louis Cardinals in that start two weeks ago and two of the runs were let in by a reliever. He did surrender a home run, however.

So what does Glasnow offer in his repertoire that got him such a high prospect rating? Well, a mid-to-upper 90s fastball for one. His four-seamer is his calling card, already displaying an ability to blow hitters away with big league-esque stuff. 

Off-speed, he goes to a curveball and a changeup. Scouts believe his curve will be the better pitch in the long term, but he hasn't mastered either quite yet.

What Glasnow needs to live up to his billing as a top talent is command. It's unsurprising that a pitcher that tall would struggle with command early in his career, as many pitchers like Randy Johnson, Dellin Betances or others have done so as well. 

However, there are plenty of cautionary tales of tall pitchers who never quite figured out all the parts of their motion and couldn't cut it in the majors. Glasnow gets his second chance to stick in the MLB after a couple weeks in the minors. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Odubel Herrera isn't hitting .300 like he was to start the year, but his 3 for 5 night on Friday propelled the Phils to a much-needed victory. Can he keep up the same momentum against a rookie like Glasnow?

Pirates: Starling Marte this year has been, well, a star. His .311 batting average leads the Pirates and his .459 slugging percentage has made him an active part in the Buccos' middle of the order.

5. This and that
• Nola is much better away from Citzens Bank Park. He is 2-6 and allows an opposing OPS of .771 at home while he is 3-2 and allows just a .607 OPS on the road. He's allowed nine home runs at CBP as opposed to just one on the road, in an equal number of starts.

• Neither Nola nor Glasnow have faced the opposing team before Saturday.

• McCutchen hits the Phillies well historically. He has a .301/.371/5.14 triple slash against the Phillies to go with seven home runs and 10 doubles. 

• In 107 at-bats over 32 games at PNC Park, Ryan Howard is batting just .187 with just three extra base hits (two home runs and a double).