Fresno Grizzlies slugger Jon Singleton’s numbers this season are typical for most left-handed batters: Hit well against right-handed pitching, struggle against lefties.
That’s usually the way it goes in baseball, especially in the left vs. left matchup. Singleton certainly has in 2015, hitting just .098 (4 for 41) with 17 strikeouts.
Except, Singleton usually has succeeded against left-handed pitchers, which made his slow start against them all the more baffling and has contributed to his up-and-down performance (he’s hitting .323 against righties) through the first 28 games.
“Singleton is one of our best prospects, and he’ll be one of our best hitters when it’s all said and done,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco says. “He’s working on some things, some adjustments, learning how to better attack the baseball.
“He’s always hit lefties before. That’s why it’s been surprising, his slow start.”
Just last year, Singleton hit .308 (21 for 68) with four home runs against lefties in Triple-A, and .247 (19 for 77) with four homers against lefties in the majors.
Singleton might’ve started to break out of his lefty slump Saturday, delivering an RBI single to center off Tacoma starter Mike Montgomery during the fourth inning.
It wasn’t nearly enough, though, as the Grizzlies lost 8-3 before an announced crowd of 9,587 at Chukchansi Park. And Singleton finished 1 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Singleton believes it’s too early to analyze his numbers. But he admits he’s been working on all aspects of his hitting.
Singleton is hitting .233 with seven homers and 16 RBIs. A year ago, Singleton posted a .267 average with 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 54 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City and .168 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs for the Houston Astros.
An eighth-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 who was traded to the Astros in 2011, Singleton has been projected as the Astros’ future starting first baseman.
“It’s more of a comfortability issue,” Singleton says. “Once you get later into the season and get more at-bats and seen the pitchers two or three times, it becomes noticeably easier.
“There’s a lot of guys I haven’t faced in this league. I don’t really know what they have. It’s just going to take time.”
Singleton started the season hitting .313 through 12 games then dropped to .218 after 21 games.
Opposing pitchers, lefties and righties, have attacked Singleton with inside fastballs then mixed in breaking balls that have typically sailed toward the outside of the plate for their knockout pitch. Singleton has struck out 28 times in 101 at-bats.
In addition, Singleton has had to regularly face dramatic shifts toward right field with defenses daring him to go opposite field against lefties and righties.
Singleton says he got caught in a rut, trying to attack outside pitches and hit to the opposite field, and laying off inside pitches to avoid hitting into the shift.
“That’s kind of not how I approach the baseball, so I just have to stick to my guns. My deal is I’m good at handling pitches in, so I need to stick to that.”
In the meantime, DeFrancesco has no plans of platooning Singleton and sitting him against lefties: “He’s going to have to go out there and try to figure it out; he’ going to play against lefties and righties. And to be an everyday first baseman in the majors, you definitely have to hit left-handed pitching.”