Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India didn’t know whether he would make the team out of spring training. India is a natural third baseman, but the Reds already had two players on the depth chart ahead of him at third. However, he played incredibly well in Arizona, and the Reds had no choice but find a position for the 2018 first round draft pick. And now he has become a valuable member of the 2021 Reds.
The 24-year-old is hitting .261/.375/.402 with an OPS+ of 105. He has 52 hits in 241 plate appearances, which includes six doubles, two triples and six home runs. He’s scored 28 runs and driven in 29. He’s also stolen five bases and has a wRC+ of 116. India is currently second among all National League rookies with a .777 OPS. The only player he trails is his teammate Tyler Stephenson, who has a .794 OPS.
Even more impressive has been India’s plate discipline, however. His strikeout rate is a little high at 21.6%, but he also has a 12.4% walk rate. He’s making contact on 74.6% of the pitches he swings at and 84.7% of the pitches he swings at in the strike zone.
His stats prove that he makes a strong case for rookie of the year. But how do his peers stack up to his numbers?
The Strong Contenders
One of India’s biggest competitors is on his own team. Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson is having an incredible rookie season himself. He’s hitting .265/.383/.411 with a wRC+ of 122. While he hasn’t had the best power (only 4 home runs), the plate discipline he’s shown as a rookie has been better than India’s. Stephenson is making contact 84 percent of the time that he swings at pitches and 91.2 percent of the time that he swings at pitches in the strike zone.
Like India, Stephenson has been on a little bit of a roller coaster ride in his first 162-game season at the major league level. He started 2021 on a hot streak, hitting .359 in April. Then his bat went cold, hitting only .188 with an OPS of .581 in May. But he has rebounded in June and is currently hitting .302 with a 1.026 OPS and two home runs in 59 plate appearances.
The other player competing against India, and probably the leader right now, is a Miami Marlins pitcher. Left-hander Trevor Rogers has a 2.08 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 86.2 innings. With a K/9 rate of 10.49 and a BB/9 rate of 2.91, he’s done an excellent job of striking out batters while allowing a minimal number of walks.
Another Marlins rookie is right there in contention for ROY as well. Second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. has a .253/.319/.426 slash line, similar to both India and Stephenson. He leads all NL rookies with eight home runs. This is a huge reason why he’s one of the contenders right now. If his power starts to fade, the 31.6% strikeout rate will hurt him as the season goes on.
The St. Louis Cardinals center fielder, Dylan Carlson, is also in contention. He’s hitting .265/.350/.401 with six home runs, 27 RBI, and a wRC+ of 113. His .751 OPS sits third on the list behind Stephenson and India. However, like Chisholm Jr., Carlson strikes out a lot, as he leads all NL rookies with 72 strikeouts, and that probably won’t help him in his quest for the award.
The Fringe Contenders
Pavin Smith, first baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks, is having a terrific season amidst his team’s historically terrible one. He ranks 5th among NL rookies with a .737 OPS. He actually has the best batting average at .274, and has 14 doubles on the season. A .327 OBP and the fact that he plays on a terrible team will only hurt his chances, especially as the season continues and the Diamondbacks fall further behind in the NL West.
Ian Anderson isn’t having an “eye-popping” kind of season, but he is quietly putting up decent numbers for the Atlanta Braves. In 75.2 innings, he has a 3.33 ERA with 79 strikeouts and 28 walks. He has given up six home runs already and has a WHIP of 1.19. However, when compared to other pitchers vying for the crown, his numbers just aren’t as good as Rogers.
It’d be remiss to not mention the son of former Reds pitcher David Weathers. Padres lefty Ryan Weathers was recently optioned to Triple-A, but not for performance reasons. The Padres first moved him to the bullpen when their pitchers returned from injury, and optioned him to keep a close eye on his workload. The 21-year-old posted a 2.47 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 13 walks in 47.1 innings at the major league level.
As you can see, there’s a lot of good competition among NL rookies this season, including from teammates, but India seems poised to stay in step with the rest of the players and compete for the rookie of the year award all season long. While he struggled through the month of May, India has shown resiliency and rebounded quite nicely in his quest to be one of the best rookies in the league.