Former Phillies prospect Singleton suspended 50 games

979599.jpg

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

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."