What to make of the Jonathan Singleton suspension

These days, I spend most of my time working on MLB.com’s 2013 Prospect Watch lists. Top 10 by position, Top 100 overall and, of course, Top 20 per team. The lists are more or less done and we’re in the content-writing stages now.

Any time there’s news regarding a prospect, I’m going to take notice. That’s true any time of year, as we try to keep things up to date. Now, though, I’m on hyper-alert for anything that could cause a change in rankings.

So when news came out about Astros first base prospect Jonathan Singleton’s 50-game suspension for testing positive for a “drug of abuse,” the alarms went off. I’m not exactly giving anything away by telling you that Singleton was set to be highly rated on the 2013 lists. He is, after all, currently No. 25 on the Top 100, No. 1 on the Astros’ Top 20 and the top-rated first baseman as well. He came in at No. 6 on my AFL Top 25. Here’s Singleton at the 2012 Futures Game:

I can, at this point, shift things around as needed for the 2013 lists. Nothing is set in stone as of now. So I sent out a quick survey to a number of scouts, the very ones I poll to generate the Top 100 rankings and asked a simple question:

Jonathan Singleton gets a 50-game suspension for a “drug of abuse.” What does that do to his prospect status?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of response. This was by no means a thorough and scientific poll. But I did hear back from six, all of whom gave me some variation of “Not much.”

A couple said that the only way it would really impact him is if it turned out he had a truly bad addiction to something (most feel the “drug of abuse” was marijuana), and that it had a negative impact on his performance. One pointed out that had it been a suspension for a PED, that would be different, since it could be argued that use of that substance led to his placement as a top prospect.

Two said it would lessen his value a bit to other clubs, that perhaps other teams would be less interested in acquiring him as a result.

But, for the most part, even if they gave Singleton demerits for being stupid, it wouldn’t really impact his status as a prospect. Why? He’s only 21 and even after serving his 50 games, he’ll still spend more than half of the season in Double or Triple-A as one of the younger regulars at that level. Prospects have missed more than that much time with an injury, one scout pointed out, and came back just as good. With no injury here, there’s no reason not to think Singleton will be fine on the field once he comes back.

So, maybe it slows Singleton’s path to the big leagues a bit, one that wasn’t necessarily blocked by anyone long-term (Carlos Pena, Brett Wallace and Rule 5 pick Nate Freiman are the in-house options at first as Spring Training approaches). But other than that, assuming Singleton can avoid such tresspasses in the future, most think he’ll be just fine.

4 Comments

I absolutely disagree with Marijuana being as punishable as PEDs. NO, I did not vote to legalize, I voted for NO, but come on, Mary Jane v PED, I’m getting my propsect off PEDs 1st and foremost.
I’d like to hear a first hand account of the kids attitude. Is he a “I will show them” type of guy or a “whatever” moron. He’s built for easy power, easy stroke, PLATE AWARENESS & u an uncommon legit 1B prospect (not Sanu bc he’s a horse).

-> Get in a fist-fight on the field (assault and battery, possible permanent injury to another human being, illegal in all states): 1-5 game suspension
-> Smoke a bit of a plant (no injury to anyone else, little long-term risk to yourself, illegal in some states): 50 game suspension.

WHAT.

Jonathan:

Thank you for always writing informative articles about the minor league prospects. I always enjoy reading them!

I was saddened to learn of Singleton’s suspension; but since most think it was probably marijuana, at least I feel better that the drugs were not PEDs. Singleton was one of many talented youths that came through the Phillies farm system … sorry to see him leave. I hope he turns his career around ..

Best regards!

Great piece, Jonathan. I’d totally agree with the assessment and glad you put the question out there to the scouts, etc.

Brian Stevenson’s comment right on point. I’d also throw in: drinking (and/or being tagged with a DUI) under the age of 21 … slap on the hands. And probably MORE dangerous (given the odds of injuring someone other than yourself).

And I agree with MaineSkin re: how marijuana is handled in terms of punishment.

One question for you … if he’d been on the 40-man roster, how, if at all, would this have been handled differently?

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