Is Jon Singleton the most critical question mark for the 2015 Astros?

Every team has question marks entering a new season and the 2015 Houston Astros are no exception to that rule. The hope is that there are fewer question marks this season than last and that more of the answers are already with the big club.

To that end, today’s question is simple: Is Jon Singleton the Most Critical Question Mark on the 2015 Astros?

There are many different ways to look at this, but in the end, Jon Singleton is going to have a longer leash than any of the other players who are on the watch list. Therefore, he may end up doing the most damage to the Astros hopes or hopefully gives a bigger lift to the team than the other potential options for most critical.

Of course there are other arguments here…..

Argument. Matt Dominguez is the most critical question mark

  • While 3B is a bigger question mark than 1B in the scheme of things, Dominguez himself is not a more critical question mark. That is because his leash is extremely short. Jeff Luhnow has straight out said that 3B might be manned by Marwin Gonzalez, and it is possible it could be covered by a combination of Gonzalez and Jed Lowrie. The point is that Matty D will not be allowed 500+ ABs to prove he is not the guy like he was given in 2014, if his production stinks like in 2014.

Argument. Pat Neshek or Luke Gregerson is the most critical question mark

  • Yes, both of these guys are critical to the Astros success, but after their recent stats they are both exclamation points, not question marks. They do need to produce, but it is not like they are coming off of injury or off of poor 2014 seasons.

Argument. Jake Marisnick is the most critical question mark

  • The assumption is that Marisnick will be the third starting OF with Fowler and Springer, but of course that is just an assumption at this point. If he does not produce, the team can throw Alex Presley or Robbie Grossman out there or bring up Domingo Santana or Preston Tucker for the spot. That is, if Marisnick is one of the starting three out of Spring Training.

Argument. Brad Peacock and his recovery from surgery is the most critical question mark

  • There was never any guarantee that Peacock was going to be the fifth starter heading into 2015 in the first place. It could be one of the alphabet twins Michael Foltynewicz or Asher Wojciechowski. It could be a dark horse like Alex White or Sam Deduno. The fifth spot in the rotation will be a question mark but Peacock may never have been the answer to that question.

Argument. A.J. Hinch is the most critical question mark

  • Managers drive us crazy, especially managers of bad teams with bad players, because not surprisingly they make more “bad” decisions because they have bad options. It appears that Hinch will have a decent roster to work with – but how much will his lineup set-up and bullpen moves really affect the final product? Maybe five games difference between great and average managerial work? He is a question mark, but not the most critical one.

Argument. Jon Singleton is the most critical question mark

  • The argument here is that Singleton will most likely be given a half season to prove himself. If he is the same whiff machine he was down the stretch in 2014, this would be a terrible drag on an offense that needs to step forward in 2015.

There are other options available, like throwing Chris Carter at 1B, though the front office should check out his offensive numbers as a DH in 2014 (.240 BA / .840 OPS) vs. his numbers playing 1B (.109 BA / .475 OPS) when making that call.

So what individual do you think is the most critical question mark for the Astros entering 2015?

45 comments on “Is Jon Singleton the most critical question mark for the 2015 Astros?

  1. I don’t think he is on a long leash, not a half season long leash. There is a developmental consideration Singleton has that other players would not get, like MattyD. But if he picks up where he left off he’ll be in Fresno and Carter will be at first and Castro at DH. Carter’s 50ish PAs as a 1B are not really relevant.

    I don’t think there is a critical position beyond top of the rotation. This is a 78-83 win team as constructed. If there is enough depth at each position to keep the team there if someone fails to perform. If Singleton goes to AAA, the line up will not materially suffer.


    • I struggle seeing Carter as a full time 1B, but I also struggle seeing Castro as a full time DH – at least the Castro we saw in 2014. That may be the back-up plan – I don’t know. But I do agree that Singleton’s leash could be shorter than I’m thinking. Maybe they pull someone up from AAA like ancient Dan Johnson if that happens.


      • They have to have a RH alternative at 1B anyway if Singleton struggles because they will at least want a righty to face lefty pitching, without having to put Carter at 1B. So Dan Johnson may be that guy. A RH 1B alternative who is better on defense than Kraus was and hopefully, more productive at the plate than Kraus was.


      • Here’s another possibility. There has in years past been quite a bit of discussion on these pages of the possibility of moving Castro to 1B. Of course, that was at a time when Jason was actually considered an offensive asset instead of a liability. Last year anyone who mentioned it would have been laughed to scorn, and justifiably so. But assuming Singleton struggles again in 2015 and Castro can bounce back offensively even a little bit, would not a fellow who knows the scoop, stretch, and block moves by heart by virtue of his years of work behind the plate be potentially a much better option at 1B than the bumbling fingers and slow reactions of Chris Carter? And if we don’t trade a catcher [along with Brad Peacock] for a 3B or starting pitcher we’ve got to do something with one of the ones we have, right?

        Meanwhile, Chris Carter has proven over and over again that he is a DH, pure and simple. He may or may not make it there, but start spreadin’ the news – DH is far cry from “New York, New York”, and just because you can make it ‘there’ [at DH] does not mean you can make it anywhere.


  2. I do see Dominguez as a critical. I usually won’t jump in the corner of guys that don’t walk, but he doesn’t strike out an exceptional amount like Carter or Singleton. He is plagued by a career long (minors included) bad BABIP, so I am guessing he hits a lot of pop ups and weak grounders. I wouldn’t assume he can be a solution at 3B, but maybe if he gets a little stronger, is able to put a little more pepper on that contact, he can be passable. He goes to ST as the starter, but I agree, he has to earn it, and earn it fast.

    Gregerson is solid. Neshek probably will be solid, but is probably right under will be status. I think Fields will be improved, and Qualls is still in the conversation, any of the 4 could end up closing. My pick though is Gregerson.

    I don’t consider Marisnick critical, or starting quality. He swings at bad pitches way too often (his swings at pitches outside the strike zone rate is worse than even Singleton and Carter). He doesn’t draw walks or hit for average, his power is questionable. If he opens in CF he could quite possibly be the worst offensive CF’er in the league. He has a great package of intangibles – speed, defense, arm – that make him a great asset in limited time – you can take advantage of his baserunning, his defense, without letting him bat 500 times. Grossman on the other hand isn’t an intangible guy, he is a one trick pony – he gets on base a lot. He isn’t a perfect solution for RF (or LF), not alot of power, suffers from Dominguezitis with his BABIP at times, and deserves a short lease for his poor starts, but if I have to choose the lesser of two evils, the OBP guy or the defense guy, to give 500 at bats too, well, thats why they call them at bats and not at fields.

    I also don’t think Peacock is a critical point. There are plenty of candidates for the 5th spot. Most teams don’t have their 5th spot settled going into ST. Not a Peacock fan because he doesn’t throw enough pitches close to the zone – he doesn’t get a lot of pitches outside the zone swung at because he isn’t good at locating, when he misses his spot he misses it to the point that he can’t fool major league hitters into swinging at them often enough. Sure, he is capable of going out there and throwing 7 innings with 2 ER line at anytime, but so is Harrell. It’s about being able to go Keuchel, and do that most every time.

    Don’t think Hinch is critical. We already know he isn’t LaRussa, so he isn’t going to add 5-7 wins to your team by great BP use, and matchup creation. All we need is for him to not lose 5-7 the opposite way. If this team was projected as a playoff contender, it would be fair to call the manager a critical decision point. While important, yes, they always are for everyone, it’s not really any more critical than who will man LF, 3B, or take the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation.

    Singleton – now you are talking critical. This is, IMO, the single most important piece to a successful season. If he can be what his promise says, and hit .270 with a .400 OBP while providing 25-30 HR, and fill that spot from the 3rd hole by the end of the season, the Astros can look at 2016 in a different light. If not, and he fails miserably, 2016 will continue to be a year where they try and put pieces together for the next year.


    • Grossman can’t play RF. He has no arm. He has neither the arm or range to play CF in MMP and he has negative fielding stats in LF. Grossman was absolutely awful batting two years in a row in the beginning of the season, when every team starts off even and the way you start determines how you finish. He has been good at the end of both seasons when the team is totally out of the race and it meant nothing.
      As far as hitting, Marisnick hit for a higher average than Grossman for the year, but he doesn’t walk. Grossman walks, that’s it. He doesn’t hit for average, doesn’t hit for power and is a liability in the field. Grossman is a one trick pony who shows up after the race is decided.
      If Grossman is going to beat out Marisnick, he had better do it by hitting in April and May for a change, because Marisnick can play defense from day 1.


      • Good points. His early season struggles are part of his warts. I don’t think its necessarily fair to say because a young guy starts poorly in any given season that he will repeat that. I think Grossman has a higher ceiling offensively because stats don’t lie – there is literally a 17% difference in how often the two chase pitches outside the strike zone. Marisnick practically doubles Grossman at it. Grossman is simply better at telling a ball from a strike. That said, if at the end of ST Marisnick is hitting and Grossman is not, it’s Marisnick’s job to lose. As for as average, it’s about the worst stat you can use to try and project what a player might do. Ask the Braves how that worked out for them and CJ.

        I also think that you are putting too much into defensive value at LF versus offensive output. If we are talking CF, or SS, we can have the value discussion – but Marisnick is not going to have the Everett effect on this defense as a whole from LF, so I would argue it’s counterproductive to play a superior defensive player. We agree that Grossman is a poor defender. We aren’t asking him to play SS, or CF, it’s LF, with half those games in MMP, one of the smallest LF’s in baseball. That said, Grossman has to hit, it’s the only way he makes it.

        I think we are mincing though, I expect both to be on the roster, and given Springer and Fowler durability issues/history, I expect both will get ample opportunity to play. TBH – they both are replaceable, and since both of their skill sets are limited, their success is probably going to depend more on Hinch then themselves. Neither one are 155 game, 700 plate appearance talents like Springer and Altuve, they will need to be matched up against pitchers they can succeed against, and used in roles they can be comfortable in and succeed in.


  3. One thing related to Matty D’s BABIP – when you are so slow it really does not matter how hard you hit groundballs. 🙂
    I find it beyond amazing that a guy with a BA of .168 like Singleton knocked in 44 runs in 310 ABs (a little more than 1/2 a season). So – if you could even see a .240 BA – that might result in an even more productive run producer.


  4. + If Dominguez is not on the final 25-man roster, we don’t have to worry, because that means we will have acquired a major league third baseman. That makes Singleton the biggest question mark on the team. I will say this: Steamer projections likes Jon a lot better for 2015 than they do Matty and it’s not even close.
    + Relievers being relievers, we should not have any more questions about the two new guys than we have about any of the other Astro members of the BP. Some are going to be excellent and some are going to be fine and a few will struggle. It’s the same for every bullpen in the league.
    + Marisnick is not as big a question mark as Grossman, because he is a much better outfielder. Both of them had problems with batting last year, Grossman with a horrible start and Marisnick with no patience at the plate. A hitting Grossman is probably worth more than a non-hitting Marisnick. But a patiently improved Marisnick has a ton more value than a non-fielding Grossman.
    + Peacock is not a huge question mark because he’s injured and we have Weiland, Wojo, White, Deduno, Buchanan, and Folty all competing for that 5th spot. One of them stepping up is good. Ober is the bigger question mark because we are currently being counted on to be a steady #4. Is he gonna be up to that? That is the question.
    + Hinch is not a big question mark because he was hired to make Luhnow’s moves. So if Hinch fails it’s because Jeff didn’t tell him the right moves and that will be on Jeff.


    • Good stuff old pro.
      I will say this that Grossman was not a terrible LF, but not in Marisnick’s universe. I guess the point is that if someone isn’t playing well – there are other close by options.
      Hinch – Robo-Jeff


    • I just don’t see Marisnick developing patience at the plate. Walk rates for players that did it poorly in the minors, start poorly in the majors, don’t point to a trendy but repairable weakness but point to a hole in ability. The vast majority of players that fit that profile end up as part timers or out of the league. The exceptions are players that do something EXTREMELY well, i.e. Altuve’s walk rates are always below average, but his contact rates and BABIPs show that he can make contact with almost anything, and do it with authority. Marisnick’s value comes in the other things he can do for you that Grossman cannot – which admittedly is a lot.

      If the Astros make a move that brings them a starting LF, or RF’er depending on the configuration they choose to go with – I would be for keeping Marisnick as the 4th OF’er and sending Grossman down. In the current configuration, if I was manager for a day, I would start Grossman and use Marisnick as the 4th OF’er. Again though, I am confident that both will get ample opportunity to prove me right or wrong.


  5. Going to back track a little on the Hinch idea – my ideas, much like Obama’s take on marriage, are “evolving.”

    I think the Astros as configured are a managing nightmare, or dream, considering how easy/hard you want your job to be. I think they have done a great job at finding players whose strengths are pretty strong but weaknesses are pretty weak.

    I would guess most managers just want the Tigers lineup, where 5 of the guys are not matchup nightmares against anyone. You can just pencil in the same names, day after day, and start managing sometime in the 7th. The Astros have 2 such guys in Springer and Altuve. The rest of the lineup is probably going to be very matchup driven.

    An easy example – Carter. I don’t have the numbers, but I am betting the geek squad does, but I would guess he struggles against power pitchers and his BA against fastballs over 95 is bad. If I can’t rely on him against King Felix when the Mariners come to town, why play him in that game? Why not put Marisnick in the OF and Grossman, a guy that probably matches up against Hernandez at least better than Carter (not that anyone matches up well to Hernandez), at DH? Not even our DH is a guy that you can put in there 155 games, 700 plate appearances, and not worry about it.

    Hinch is going to be busy, but hey, at least his BP is the best BP we’ve had in years.


  6. Most critical year for any individual – my vote goes to Luhnow. Not saying his “bads” are more than his “goods.” But from what was reported, he wanted to sign long term deals with Grossman and Matty D. He did get Singleton to sign. Not sure any of those three, nor Pressley, have earned the right to stay in the majors. So Luhnow needs several of these picks of his to do a lot better this coming year. He can not afford to have another washout in the BP. Injuries are not the fault of the GM but to include Aiken, but it sure makes him look less than stellar in selecting talent.


  7. Gregorio Petit has been assigned to Fresno after clearing waivers. He might accept that assignment if the team offers him an invite to the MLB Camp in ST. If Petit comes to camp without a 40-man roster spot it gives the Astros some infield flexibility. He performed pretty well in his short stint with Houston last season.


  8. I would like to wish Merry Christmas to all of my friends at Chipalatta. This blog is like a present that lasts all year long. Thanks to all of you for your gift of sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I also want to wish all of my Chipalatta bloggers a very Merry Christmas and God’s blessings. My Christmas wish this year is that Craig Biggio finally get his well-deserved call from the Hall of Fame on January 6th. I would also like to see Bagwell get elected, but I don’t want to be greedy with Santa this year and I don’t think Bagwell will make it this year. I just hope I see a decent increase in his vote percentage.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Merry Christmas all! Here’s to hoping Santa brings a fun and exciting season for us in 2015. Especially a chance to be in a playoff race until the end of the season!


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