At the end of June, I wrote an article detailing Jonathan India’s National League Rookie of the Year chances. Two months later, his path to the award for the best rookie season in 2021 has become a little clearer.

At the time of the last article, India was hitting .261/.375/.402. He hit well in June with a .303/.425/.455 slash line, but really took off in July, hitting .319/.470/,527. It has led him to where he is now: the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner. He’s dropped off a little in August, hitting .271/.320/.614, but already has the most home runs in one month of his season with six.

He leads all NL qualified rookies in runs scored, walks, RBI, on-base percentage, and OPS. In almost every other category, including home runs, batting average and slugging percentage, he is second among all qualified rookies. However, it’s not his ability to hit that impresses the most; it’s his plate discipline combined with his hitting prowess. With nearly a .400 on-base percentage, he draws walks, but also hits the ball out of the ballpark,  as evidenced by his 16 home runs.

The Challengers

Trevor Rogers, whose team the Reds will play starting tonight, is the reason why India hasn’t completely run away from his competition yet. Rogers, a left-handed pitcher in the Miami Marlins rotation, has pitched excellent all season. In 110.0 innings, he has a 2.45 ERA and a 2.62 FIP with 129 strikeouts. He’s a high strikeout pitcher and has limited walks and home runs this season, with a 8.9% walk rate and a 0.41 HR/9 rate. His expected stats aren’t much higher than his actual stats (3.46 xERA/3.56 xFIP). He’s right on target for his performance this season, and maybe even a little better.

He ranks in the top 75th percentile in nearly every category on Baseball Savant, including the 84th percentile in whiff rate. He gets batters to swing and miss on all three of his pitches. His four-seam fastball is at 28.5% and his change up is at 33.6%. However, his best pitch is his slider, with a whiff rate of 42.4%.

(Note: Rogers has been away from the Marlins since August 3rd when the team first placed him on the Family Medical Emergency list and more recently the restricted list. As of right now, it appears the timetable for his return is uncertain. Best wishes to him and his family).

India’s teammate, Tyler Stephenson, is next closest to him overall. Stephenson leads all NL rookies in batting average at .291. With a .376 OBP, he trails only India. What’s holding Stephenson back is his lack of at-bats. Since he shares time behind the plate with Tucker Barnhart, he has fewer plate appearances; therefore, he’s not getting as much recognition for his season.

Dylan Carlson compares best with India in the number of games played (112 games to India’s 111), but his .760 OPS ranks fifth among all qualified rookies. With a .261/.341/.419 slash line and 12 home runs, he is putting together a decent season. However, other players are having better seasons. Carlson just happened to debut in a year where there’s a lot of talented first-year players. He has done a 180-degree turn in August, with a .922 OPS in 44 plate appearances, after hitting terribly in July at .202/.283/.404 clip.

Fading Fast

Chicago Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom was not on my list in June for potential Rookie of the Year candidates, but since the Cubs traded away its entire team, Wisdom has gotten a lot more playing time. He has 18 home runs, two more than India. Aside from his power, however, he’s hitting only .253/.315/.529, with plenty of others ahead of him. Like Stephenson, he probably does not have the plate appearances to pass the front-runner India, as he’s only played in 74 games up to now. He’s also hitting .196/.237/.339 in 56 at-bats in August.

Right-handed pitcher Ian Anderson was having a solid season for the Atlanta Braves, recording a 3.56 ERA pre-All-Star break. And then he went on the 10-day injured list with shoulder inflammation on July 16th. Before he was put on the IL, he gave up seven runs in 14.1 innings. Anderson’s on his way back–he’s made three rehab starts in August–but being out for an entire month certainly is not going to help his candidacy.

Although Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Pavin Smith is also having a nice season (he’s third in total hits with 108), he hasn’t done enough to pass India. Smith had one bad month in June when he hit just .230/.295/.299. His average is up to .266, good for third among all rookies, but because he’s only hit nine home runs and driven in 40, his .727 OPS is 7th-best.

Conclusion

Not only is India performing at the highest level, he’s the only one that to this point has both played everyday and played consistently well. He leads in nearly every category among NL rookies, and a return to the field is unknown for the one pitcher who could challenge him for the award. Not even Stephenson, also known for his plate discipline, comes close to India’s .390 on-base percentage. Combine that with India’s timely hitting and the power he’s displayed over the last few months, and you have a perfect candidate for Rookie of the Year. At this point it would seem India is destined for this award and the only one who stands in the way is himself.

All stats current through August 17th, 2021.

19 Responses

  1. LGR

    Yes, he better not get robbed like Votto did in ’08.

  2. Stock

    One thing you did not mention is that India is a pretty good defensive player as well.

    Right now Rogers has a WAR of 3.3
    India has a WAR of 3.2

  3. Mark Moore

    The case is extremely strong for RoY India. As you noted, it appears to be his to lose at this point.

  4. Arthur

    According to the Fielding Bible, India is -4 defensive runs saved at 2B. That really isn’t very good. I am willing to cut him some slack there since he hasn’t really played 2B much before this season, and I expect it’s a tough position to learn on the fly. Plus, his offense has been excellent.

    But I suspect that his future lies not at 2B, but at his natural position of 3B. Anyone else think the Reds have an obvious need for someone to play 3B and actually produce offensively there?? I am hoping Mr McClain rockets thru the minor league system and can get to Cincinnati quickly. Moving him to second from shortstop shouldn’t be too hard, and we might then actually have an infield that can catch the ball.

    • Stock

      According to Fangraphs India is a +1.1 fielder. Pretty good for someone who never really played there. His UZR/150 is +0.5. Broken down he is below average in turning the double play but above average in range. This is good. You can work hard and in time improve at turning the double play. But work rarely improves range.

  5. Bet on Red

    He is certainly the odds favorite…. -400 now while all the competition is pushing plus sign odds

  6. LDS

    I agree. His only competition would seem to be Rogers. Generally, I’m not in favor of pitchers winning over everyday players. Carlson may steal the award given the St. Louis media clout though I don’t think it’s that likely.

    • Gonzo Reds

      I was just going to say that Carlson is India’s biggest threat based solely on that MLB and the media love the Cardinals and feel they can do no wrong. This year we need to go no further than the league suspending Casto and doing nothing to Molina during the altercation at the plate earlier this year.

      I also hope India doesn’t get robbed like Votto did years back!

  7. Mark A Verticchio

    I think it all comes down to the next 40 games, hopefully India will not run out of gas the team needs him bad and that has shown the last 2 games. When he has a bad game the team really struggles. He can’t have at bats like he did Tuesday night in the 7th inning, that was disappointing.

  8. Redsvol

    I think he, and the team, are need to finish strong for India to get it. It will help if the Reds are in the wild card hunt till the end because baseball voters will pay more attention to the Reds. If they fade off the pace then I think it will go to Rogers – who is having a phenomenal year. I too am not a fan of a pitcher winning it over an everyday player – seems like there should be 1 for pitchers and 1 for players.

    • Arthur

      I agree. Where the team finishes shouldn’t matter, but we all know it does. Reds definitely need to make a strong run the last 6 weeks.

      If we can smoke some fish this weekend, and India shows well, it might help.

  9. Andy

    So obvious to me that MLB needs separate awards for pitchers and position players. No good way to compare India/Rogers. Both great and deserving of award recognition.

  10. RedsGettingBetter

    Vlad Gutierrez seems has no chance for win the ROY but I think he could deserve to be in the top 5 specially if he continues performing as last outings… He has 8-4 3.87 ERA in 85 IP but it is clear his K% is low and Walks% is a little up as HR% so if he improves this numbers maybe will be closer …he still probably has another few outings remaining…

    • Joe P.

      Gutierrez definitely deserves mention. Gutierrez has started 15 games, Rogers 20. Gutierrez has 10 quality starts and Rogers has 9. Gutierrez still has the possibility to start 8 more games, if the Reds think he is up to it.

      The big difference in stats seems to be in HRs given up and in strikeouts. Gutierrez has given up 14 HRs with 9 coming at home, Rogers has given up 5 HRs with only 1 coming at home. Rogers has 129 strikeouts in 110 innings pitched, Gutierrez has 65 strikeouts in 86 innings. I’m not a statistician, but if you factor out the extra HRs, some coming from pitching in a smaller home ballpark, Gutierrez numbers are very good and close to Rogers.

      Over their last 7 starts, Gutierrez has thrown 7 more innings than has Rogers (41.2 vs 34.1), Gutierrez is 4-1 with a 3.02 ERA, with a WHIP of 1.32 and Rogers is 0-3 with a 3.67 ERA with a WHIP of 1.31.

      Rogers built a big early lead over all the other rookies so his name has been on everybody’s mind longer and everyone else has been trying to catch up. I think with 3 solid rookie choices, the Reds have clearly been pushing for India so as not to split or dilute the vote further.

      • stock

        Gutierrez and Rogers are not even close. If you want to take out HR feel free to look at xFIP. Rogers’ xFIP is 3.56 Vlades is 5.22. You want to discount the unluckiness Vlade has in HR but you ignore his extremely lucky strand % and BABIP. Quite a combination. His launch angle is not so good. His Exit velocity is not so good.

  11. PhoenixPhil

    India, as the hair flows, the Reds goes. May have to work on that phrasing a little.

    • Rednat

      yes, right now India is the catalyst of this team. last 2 games are the evidence

  12. Rednat

    what i like about INDIA is his durability. if the reds don’t make the playoffs i would say the biggest reason is the injuries to Winker, Castellanos and Senzel. so it is good to have durable players