Houston Astros prospect Jonathan Singleton is a power-hitting first baseman capable of becoming a force at the plate for a franchise desperately seeking star power. While he doesn't lack talent, his off-field progress is just as important to his development.
Singleton was suspended 50 games last year following a second failed drug test for marijuana. Kristie Rieken of The Associated Press reports Singleton has now been marijuana-free for more than a year as he attempts to make the Astros' Opening Day roster.
He said his drug addiction really became a problem after his second failed test because he continued to smoke on a daily basis afterward. That's when he agreed to enter a rehabilitation center, which posed some problems at the outset:
I knew I had a problem. Even after I failed the second drug test I couldn't stop smoking weed. It was really bad. Me going there was definitely the best move.
They would turn off the lights at 11:30 and I would just sit there and stare at the ceiling because I couldn't go to sleep. My heart was beating too fast. I would get night sweats. It was bad. I legitimately went through withdrawal.
Although Singleton has been able to shake the marijuana habit, he admitted to abusing alcohol once his suspension ended last season. That reportedly came to an end during his time in the Puerto Rican winter league, he claimed, as he made the decision to place a greater emphasis on baseball.
The 22-year-old infielder has entered the spring with a renewed outlook. He says the goal is to avoid situations where in the past he would have reverted to partying and instead redirect that energy toward becoming a better person, both on and off the field.
Singleton has the support of the organization. Brian McTaggart of MLB.com provided comments from Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who applauded his young player for speaking out about a subject that has held him back in recent years:
Assuming he can remain on the right path, his future remains bright. MLB.com ranked Singleton as the top first-base prospect in the league with an expected arrival sometime in 2014. He had 29 extra-base hits in 90 games across three stops in the minor leagues last season.
The Astros were tied for 26th in the MLB in runs scored last season. If the organization is going to start turning things around starting in 2014, Houston needs prospects like Singleton to start realizing their potential and turning it into major league success.
For the first time in awhile, Singleton feels like he's ready to make that happen.