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What To Expect: Nick Singleton

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After staff aces Will Savage and Derek Blacksher left for somewhat greener pastures, the Wingnuts desperately needed to address the top of their rotation. They did so in acquiring Nick Singleton, who has been at the front of Sioux City’s staff for the past two seasons under the tutelage of manager and former MLB pitcher Les Lancaster.

Singleton will start on Opening Day for the Wingnuts, allowing right-handed holdovers Adam Cowart and Gabe Medina to slide down in the rotation and giving the team depth on its pitching staff. Singleton, 27, is a 6-foot, 170-pound right-hander; not the prototypical body for a pitcher, but he has averaged seven strikeouts per nine innings in his career, so he can ramp it up a little bit. He was undrafted out of Auburn.

For the first time in his five-year professional career, Singleton made more than 16 starts, establishing career highs with 21 starts and 129 1/3 innings. It wasn’t a significant jump in innings, as he pitched 112 2/3 the year before, but Singleton appeared to tire somewhat down the stretch, as he allowed a season-worst eight earned runs in his third-to-last start, against Wichita.

Singleton’s 4.04 ERA was nearly two points higher than his 2008 mark of 2.24. Though his strikeout rate went up and many of his other peripheral statistics were largely unchanged, Singlelton did have a significant increase in walks, from 2.6 to 4.1 per nine innings. I expect the walk rate from last season to be a fluke and that Singleton will return to a rate of around three per nine innings.

What Singleton will give the Wingnuts is consistency. He pitched into the sixth inning in 18 of his 21 starts last season, including his first 13. He also allowed three runs or fewer 16 times. His best start was his penultimate one in 2009, a complete-game against Sioux Falls in which he struck out eight, missing his season high by one.

Under manager Kevin Hooper and pitching coach Luke Robertson, I think Singleton will rebound from a somewhat disappointing season. Hooper and Robertson obviously have the trust in him to have the maturity to lead a staff, and I believe that trust will be rewarded.

Season projection: 20 starts, 9-3 record, 122 innings, 41 earned runs, 3.02 ERA, 117 hits, 40 walks, 96 strikeouts.