The Astros announced today that setup man Chad Qualls has been placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to June 25) with a pinched nerve in his neck. To fill his spot on the roster, Houston recalled first baseman Jon Singleton.
The 23-year-old Singleton was the subject of a good deal of controversy in 2014, as many felt that the five-year, $10MM extension (plus three club options) that he signed with Houston was far too team-friendly of a deal. At the time, Singleton was a much-ballyhooed prospect who had obliterated Triple-A pitching at a .267/.397/.544 pace.
Singleton, however, struggled tremendously at the Major League level in 2014, hitting just .168/.285/.335 with an alarming 134 strikeouts in 362 trips to the plate (37 percent). The offseason acquisitions of Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus, along with Chris Carter‘s presence on the roster, created a crowded corner outfield/first base/DH scenario on the Astros’ roster in Spring Training, so when Singleton struggled in March, it wasn’t surprising to see him head back to Triple-A.
Singleton’s 2015 season at Triple-A looks an awful lot like his 2014 season at the level. He’s batted .280/.387/.553 with 17 homers and 17 doubles thus far with the Astros’ new Triple-A affiliate in Fresno. Now, Singleton will hope for better results at the Major League level than he experienced last year.
It’s entirely possible that this will merely represent a short-term promotion for Singleton. But, it also seems short-sighted not to consider the possibility that the former Top 30 prospect hits well enough to force Houston to keep him on the roster. Carter, after all, has struggled in terms of hitting for average, though he sports a .321 OBP and plenty of power. And Gattis has seen his already questionable OBP dip to .262, although he, like Carter, is showing excellent pop as well.
As for Qualls, it’s not clear exactly when this injury began ailing him, but in late May, he went into somewhat of a tailspin after a strong start to the season. Qualls had a 2.93 ERA with an 18-to-3 K/BB ratio as recently as May 22. He struggled that evening, however, and since that time has yielded nine runs in 9 1/3 innings, surrendering 15 hits and four walks while striking out just five.