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.
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.
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.
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.