Duo of Cosart, Singleton give Astros bright future
Club's top two prospects continue to progress through the system
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Jarred Cosart, prior to what would be his final start at Double-A Corpus Christi, carefully rubbed black shoe polish on his cleats in an effort to hide the scuffs, all the while chatting with a reporter about what it's going to take to keep progressing through the system.
"It's all about showing the right people and staying consistent," said Cosart, carefully making sure the heels were just right.
Once his shoes were polished just the way he liked them, Cosart took the mound and threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings against Frisco on July 21 for his fifth consecutive strong start for the Hooks. The consistency was there, and so were the watchful eyes of Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow.
It was no coincidence Cosart was soon packing his bags, including his shiny black cleats, and heading north to Triple-A Oklahoma City. And it might not be too long before first baseman Jonathan Singleton -- who was traded with Cosart and two other players from the Phillies to the Astros in the Hunter Pence trade -- winds up joining him.
It's been a year since Cosart and Singleton, the top two prospects in the Astros' farm system, had their worlds turned upside down when they were dealt to the Astros from the Phillies on July 29, 2011. Minor League outfielder Domingo Santana and pitcher Josh Zeid also went to the Astros.
Cosart and Singleton have settled in nicely in their new surroundings and are at the head of the class in the Astros' ever-improving Minor League system.
After going 5-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 15 starts at Corpus Christi, Cosart made his first start at Oklahoma City since earlier in the season on Friday, allowing four hits and three runs with five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings against Iowa. The start was cut short because of a recurring blister problem.
Singleton, meanwhile, represented the Astros in the All-Star Futures Game and entered play Saturday hitting .274 with 13 homers and 56 RBIs for the Hooks.
"Each organization is different, but I'm definitely excited with the way things have gone so far," Singleton said.
Cosart, who throws in the upper 90s, isn't short on confidence. He's had the stuff to succeed at a high level, but the Astros worked with him all season to become a more refined pitcher. Corpus Christi manager Keith Bodie believes he's turned that corner.
"For a very young lad with the stuff he's got, we're very happy with the progress and the way he approaches the lineup and hitters and knowing what he is and what he needs to do and being more economical with his pitches," Bodie said. "He's got three plus Major League pitches."
Cosart had a period of about four starts where he started to elevate the ball, and Bodie and pitching coach Gary Ruby had him sit in the dugout for four days between starts and study where the strike zone was. Cosart learned he was up in the zone about two inches too high.
"Getting those two inches down, my ground-ball rate is through the roof and I've been striking guys out," he said. "A lot of credit goes to them."
Cosart's curveball has been a work in progress, but it's become sharper and quicker. He's also throwing a two-seam fastball now that has led to more ground balls. He uses the pitch to give right-handers another viewpoint.
"They don't like it too much," he said. "Throwing it away to lefties has been great for me, very effective. I probably throw 10-15 game a game, and it's been great."
Singleton, a left-handed power bat, is baseball's top-ranked first-base prospect by MLB.com. He hasn't put up crazy power numbers this year, but the Astros are confident he will be a middle-of-the-order power threat down the road. Expect Singleton to compete for the starting first-base job next spring.
"Just the whole craft of hitting, I definitely feel like I can get better at it," he said. "Hitting for power is definitely something I can get better at. Just as a whole, I think I can progress."
Singleton admits he puts pressure on himself, which is only natural when a legion of fans is clamoring for you to get called up to the Major Leagues and rejuvenate the offense.
"I definitely put pressure on myself, but I try not to let the outside influences get to me too much," he said. "I still have to go out and play hard every day."
Bodie is confident the power numbers will come as Singleton ages.
"He's still a puppy," Bodie said. "For his age, he has a real good knowledge of the strike zone, his plate discipline is outstanding, and at times that affects his aggressiveness, but when he's aggressive to the fastball and aggressive to strikes he has tremendous power potential."
Bodie raves just as much about Singleton's defense. He came up as a first baseman, but the Phillies moved him to the outfield because they had Ryan Howard at first base and tied up in a long contract.
"He could be a Gold Glove first baseman," said Bodie, a former manager in the Giants organization. "I haven't seen a first baseman like him since J.T. Snow."
Singleton can't help but look around at the moves the Astros have made recently to get younger and know his day -- and Cosart's day -- is going to come. They are the future, but that future is growing closer by the day.
"I'm pretty sure a lot of guys feel the same way about now, and it's definitely exciting to get an opportunity to do things," Singleton said.