Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India was picked as one of the four best bounce-back candidates by Eno Sarris of The Athletic. Two years ago saw India win the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award. During the 2021 season he hit 34 doubles, 2 triples, crushed 21 home runs, and hit .269/.376/.459 while going 12-for-15 in stolen base attempts. Last year, though, he only played in 103 games and saw his offensive production drop as he hit just .249/.327/.378.
Just looking at the two seasons it’s easier to see where some of the differences came from. India walked significantly less often in 2022 than he had in 2021. His 11.3% walk rate in his rookie season was above the league average, while his 7.2% walk rate in 2022 was below the league average. Not that he struck out a lot in 2021 – his rate of contact was better than average – but he did strike out slightly less in 2022 than he did in his rookie year. The amount of power he hit for dropped off in a big way, too. His isolated power (SLG-AVG) was .190 as a rookie, but was just .130 last season. Toss in that his BABIP dropped from .326 to .305 and you can see how things worked out for a drop off in performance.
So the question we need to ask is what would lead one to believe that Jonathan India can get back to where he was – or even improve upon – as a rookie? The first place to look is health. In late April of 2022 India found himself on the injured list with a hamstring injury. He would miss the next six weeks before returning to the Reds. Later in the summer he would be hit by a pitch in the leg during the Field of Dreams game. Following the game he was flown to a local hospital over the concerns of the swelling in his leg. India turned out to be ok, but he missed a few days and as Sarris notes in his article, when he returned he had lost plenty of speed the rest of the season.
Now, with all of that said, if you’ve been paying attention over the last two seasons you’ve likely picked up on the fact that you almost have to physically pull India from the field. He’s tough and he’s going to try and play through just about anything. Still, it’s not as if that was limited to just 2022. He played through some things in 2021, too, and he performed very well.
During the second half of the season his walk and strikeout rates were much better than they were in the first half. If he can carry forward that 10% walk rate (above-average) and a 20% strikeout rate (above-average contact rate), that will be a nice place to start. Getting back some of the power he showed as a rookie would be the other big factor in play. Having two different leg injuries in 2022 probably sapped some of the power and if he’s healthy after some offseason rest that could help him get back in the swing of things. Pun intended.
India and Stephenson are going to have strong seasons and will be signed to extensions after this season as the new core position leaders of the post Joey Votto Reds. India is a competitor and Stephenson is a gifted hitter.
I’d echo those sentiments. I hope they both really ramp it up this season. The two of them and the young pitching core are some of the few attractions that will make Reds baseball entertaining to follow in 2023.
Not sure I would extend either. Don’t forget Bailey, Mesorocco, and Geno. All three were “can’t miss” extentions. Yet all three failed.
1. You have to pay someone. We will never have a good Reds team if we refuse to pay anyone over fear of buyer’s remorse. 2. No one was calling Bailey a “can’t miss” extension candidate, I remember many Reds fans who thought that was a bad deal when it was signed. 3. Mesorocco suffered from career ending injuries, not something we really could have foreseen. 4. Geno was not a failure. He had a couple good seasons after the extension. In reality, he really only had the one bad year, when the Reds forced him to try SS due to their own incompetence, and he still hit 30 bombs. Now he is more than playing up to his contract in Seattle.
Sure there were circumstances, but all three flamed out. Period.
I like TS and JI both a lot. Both have already had a lot of injuries. TS has had multiple concussions which can end careers.
I would not extend either until one shows he can get through at least one entire year without an injury that costs multiple weeks of playing time.
2024WSC, you and I are on the same side here, and I think the Reds can be very good starting in 2024. I hope they hit free agency hard next year. But, there is no rule saying they have to pay aomeone to be good.
One of the reasons they will be so bad in 2023 is they are waiting for 40m of wasted money to come off the books.
There is some wisdom on hesitating to sign players on long term contracts who have not even played one full season without significant injuries. That’s the main reason I didn’t mind trading Winker.
Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t MLB change the ball between 2021 and 2022? Wonder if that along with feeling like he had to “carry” this team got into Indias head last year? I’m hoping for him and TySteve both to have big bounce back years.
India himself said that he had changed his off-season workouts before 2022 to put on some muscle, so as not to wear down as the season went by. When that was coupled with a shortened spring training, he was susceptible to muscle injuries right off the bat, and he fairly quickly developed the hamstring issue that dogged him all year. And when players get off to bad starts, they do tend to press and as a result dig a deeper hole.
The Field of Dreams injury was a fluke, as were the injuries to Stephenson, at least in the sense that they weren’t wear-and-tear injuries to a knee, say. Catchers, of course, are more prone to fluke injuries than other position players.
The shortened spring training was not kind to the Reds last year, probably more so than any other team. We don’t have enough information as to whether that was just bad luck or a bad training plan, but I tend to believe that it was just bad luck.
I think that we will see the 2021 version of India. The most logical position player rookie to arrive next year is McLain, though, so I could see India morphing into a multi-position player, at 2B, 3B, LF and even 1B, when/if McLain is ready.
Why can’t McClain be the multi- position players?
In my view if Indiana still wants to be a 2B he should get back to his rookie year weight. He should only “bulk up” if he wants to play in the corners infield or outfield. A player can still be strong without gaining much weight.
Hope he does. But my concern is that if he does too well, the Reds will dump him for prospects at trade deadline.
Highly likely imo. I’m not endorsing that, but with all the SS’s on the brink of coming up, India will likely be traded to fill other holes.
India isn’t Arb eligible until 2025
He’ll be around (read “affordable”) for a few seasons still
He’s still under contract thru the end of 2026. I would put a .01% chance or less on him getting traded this year.
Well, given that India is under Reds control at minimal cost through 2026, I see no logical rationale for even the cheapest team to consider doing that.
@OBE, again I’m not saying they should, but the rational is we have a lot of middle infield types, but zero highly rated OF prospects, and only 3/5ths of a rotation.
If we are doing the Ray’s way, when did they trade Willy Adames? Seems like a very similar scenario to me.
True, he is under team control through 2026; but, he becomes arbitration eligible for the 2024 season, per BBRef and Fangraphs, presuming he spends the entire 2023 season on the active roster or MLB Injured List.
If the Reds remain in their current posture, I could see them taking one shot at extending India on very team friendly terms ahead of 2025 but trading him to start backfilling the minor league system if that comes up empty. At that point, it will either be India or some of the folks from the glut of highly rated middle IF prospects who will be on the move.
Adames is a curious case, because he just couldn’t hit in Tropicana Field/Dome/Structure. There, he’s slashed .216./.275/.338, against career slashes of .255/.322/.448, which includes the Tropicana numbers. Maybe the lighting in that dome just didn’t agree with him, because I don’t know how else to explain those splits.
Plus, the Rays had Wander Franco in the wings at shortstop, and the key value in Adames is as a shortstop. As I have said, I think that India will eventually be a left fielder.
I advocated for the Reds to trade for Adames before he went to Millwater, due to his strange splits and because the Reds at the time were very light on shortstops. The Rays apparently wanted relief pitchers, though, and the Reds were void in relievers at the time.
I see this as the same scenario as the Rays, it may even be a clearer case than the Rays had with Adames. EDLC/McLain/Marte/Steer will create a bigger displacement event than just Franco, no matter how good Wander is. Plus the Reds are not good, and likely won’t be for several seasons.
I’ve liked the idea of India being moved to the OF, but the Reds don’t seem to be going that direction with him. Maybe we will see India putting in OF work this spring?
I guess the questions Krall will have to answer is, Would converting India to the OF be better for the Reds than the OF prospects he could bring in return, and which way works better with Krall’s timeline for rebuilding the Reds?
I’d convert India to the OF, if I were the GM, I don’t want to trade him, I just see it as a likely scenario.
I tend to agree with Ed here, I dont believe the Reds are (or will be) looking to move India this year. Yes there are plenty of prospects coming down the line that will need a spot to play but I think there is flexibility with almost all of them and the team can get creative. EDLC could be a 3rd or CF (hate to see him wasted in a corner OF spot but I guess it is possible), Marte is almost a lock to move to 3rd or DH, Steer can play just about anywhere, McClain could certainly man CF, CES would seem to be the future 1B and then yes I also believe India is athletic and talented enough to move to the OF if that became the plan. Edwin and Cam are too far away for now to be worried about a big league spot. I hope the Reds are looking at all options to keep as much of this young core intact and on the field and.
How good is India really? He hit .269 with 20 dingers in probably the most hitter friendly park in mlb while being a mediocre defender. He followed that up with lousy stats and horrible defense while battling an injury. How good is he? He definitely doesn’t deserve star billing yet. Could he develop into a better hitter? Sure, or he may not. Will he suddenly become a good defender? I seriously doubt that. These are just hard truths. I guess that people like his hair though so that might help win a few. I do hope that he develops into a steady fixture. He seems to show effort and to be a nice enough guy. I just prefer to be a realist with each player. Let’s hope that he can build on taking advantage of the Reds puny park..
I believe India to be a left fielder fairly soon, but in 2021, he hit 12 HRs on the road and 9 at GABP. He had a .860 OPS on the road, and .811 at GABP, so he did not really pad his stats in a hitters’ park.
India also had 34 doubles; he was 12-15 in SB attempts; and he had a OPS+ of 116 and a bWAR of 3.9, so he was clearly more than an average player. And even if he were to be only an average player going forward, that is pretty much better than the Reds had at any position last year. An “average” MLB player is pretty valuable.
Very gritty, too.
Agree on the positives, but his injury/Injuries last season are concerning to me especially for a young player. I wouldn’t expect a soft tissue injury for a young player to linger like it did? Likewise, does he give the team the range at 2B all teams now need sans the “shift?” Further, would he supply the power one would want at 3B??
Stephenson is similar: does his size limit him as a catcher and expose him to further injury? If moved to 1B, would he supply the ideal power most would want fm that position? IMO, I think he might b better utilized as a full time DH and backup catcher?? Time will tell.
Gritty…and we love his hair.
Seriously, Jon India is a good guy, who wants to play, and plays hard. Even if he just bats .270-.280 with around 20 HR, THAT’S something for this otherwise boring ball club. I think he is also a very positive influence in the clubhouse, with just his attitude.
And of course….his hair. 🙂
I don’t know, Muddy. His main problem was a hamstring injury, and hamstrings are notorious for acting like they are healed, until the player resumes game speed and reinjures it. IIRC, that is what India went through; he showed good grit but bad execution.
I agree his range was weak last year at 2B.
Hamstring injuries are a hassle. I retired from softball, when I couldn’t even tag up from third on a flyball without reinjuring it in 60 feet. Went about half my time that year with a massive purple and black bruise on the back of my leg. Granted, I was both old and big even then, but I did one at about age 25, too.
@Muddy. The guy Ohio State Buckeyes football (and everybody else) projected as their top all world receiver for 2022, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, not Marvin Harrison Jr, suffered a hamstring injury in game 1 of the season.
Like India, not once but twice JSN made comeback attempts during the season to no avail. Eventually, on medical advice, he threw in his hand and did not even attempt to play in the CFB playoffs.
I think these kids are trained and conditioned to a razor’s edge that is very hard to maintain given the grind they put their bodies through.
I just hope India (and JSN) can find and maintain their former edge and performance level.
Career home split: 128 games, 16 HR, .259 .352 .429
Career road split: 125 games, 15 HR, .261 .360 .421
@Jim Walker: I had an employee once, former All American basketball player at University of Cincinnati. He once told me that to play at that level he was always on the edge between peak condition and injured.
This is a pretty bad take no matter how you look at it. Even randomly plucking batting average out of thin air like you did, .269 in 2021 was a solid average. Not to mention you neglected the .376 on base percentage (which is big to have in a leadoff hitter), the 116 OPS+ and the 3.9 bWAR. I mean, we are talking about darn good numbers, especially for a rookie (who won ROY as well).
So denigrating the 2021 season India had does nothing but show your poor evaluation. I’m not saying he’ll ever be a star, or even live up to those rookie numbers (but I hope he does), but it’s insane to poo poo his rookie numbers as pedestrian.
The other factor in that, and I am not besmirching India Believe he is a very good player, is that last year he did not have Winker and Castellanos hitting behind him.
Taking a closer look at his two seasons, I thought there was a greater dropoff, but perhaps a lot, if not all, can be due to the injuries and general collapse of the rest of the team. Understanding how fuzzy defensive stats can be, I wonder if he regressed that much in the field. He may never become an all-star, but wouldn’t everyone like this sort of performance from, say, Nick Senzel?
Everyone is dispensable, but there’s no way he’s traded given the remaining years under control.
With his OBP he needs to be the regular leadoff hitter, but as with Joey, perhaps he should be limited to playing 6 days a week, to preserve his health.
Doug and Old Big Ed sum it up nicely – India’s extremely useful, perhaps at multiple positions, but protecting his health should be the Reds primary focus.
That’s a fair point on those road stats Ed. I do agree that average players are an asset. I just feel like India needs a couple of decent seasons before labeling him as such. He wasn’t really even an average player last year. He did have injuries and there’s nothing wrong with being optimistic that he will play like he did in year 1. It’s definitely not a given though, he is still a huge question mark.
Good ol Reds fans. Love a guy one year and riding the bandwagon . Next year he becomes a bum. We can’t even like the good guys on the team without tearing them done. McClain? Let’s wait and see what he does in AAA before we replace India with him. Barrero was the next great shortstop and hasn’t done anything yet. India will be playing on the dirt this year and not short right on lefties. Those short right plays to first are bang bang plays and he has little time to get the ball out and to first. His DRS will be better this year. He will cover ground but a lot of those plays in short right he won’t have a chance at this year. JMO
JB? Bandwagon? Lol. When was the last time that this team was awesome?35 years ago? There’s no bandwagon fans around, just diehards that are jaded because of this horrendous ownership group.
India has been defensively one of the worst rated 2B’s over the last 2 season. He’s a 3B that was forced into a position that doesn’t suit him. I am also skeptical that McLain will be an everyday starter. Maybe India improves defensively, and maybe McLain becomes an everyday player. I do think it’s fair to question what’s the best up the middle setup the Reds can deploy. There are a lot of unknowns at this point to say this way or that way is the best for sure, 23 should help figure some of this out.
And one should recall this was all part of the Moose / Suarez merry go round that the Reds set up for themselves through drafting and FA signings and Bell was more than happy to get behind.
Moving Geno to SS was a disaster at both ends…threw off his hitting as well as underperforming with the glove.
Moose being hurt for most of his time in Cincinnati probably helped and of course having 2B open for India gave him the opportunity to break through.
But that doesn’t mean things have to stay that way.
But it should give pause to the oft repeated “he’s a good athlete he can play anywhere” or Bell’s maddening shuffling of folks from position to position so he can show he’s “managing”.
Not convinced Steer can hold down 3B but I am convinced if Bell repeats his practice of swapping him around every other game, that his hitting focus and development as well will be compromised as well.
We saw evidence of that in September already.
I’m among those that feel it held Senzel back as well.
The thought of Bell navigating EDLC or CED or Marte’s transition to MLB is frightening.
Dude was a rookie, struggles are expected as the league gets a scouting report on him. His inconsistent hitting is not “evidence” of him playing too many positions. Let’s be reasonable, lots of teams have players manning multiple positions and having success. Obviously a steady position is ideal but you have to earn that.
India was the guy who by all accounts worked his tail off during the cancelled minor league season of 2020 and got his reps in at Prasco and made himself into an MLB player in 2021 skipping AAA who won the NL ROY by a landslide. He was quoted in December as saying he’s looking forward to NOT having a rover on his side of the field and he will be a good second basemen and had started his preparation then. He certainly has earned the right to hit leadoff and play 2b and given a long leash. Hes a reason to watch this team.
I think it’s true. Jonathon is very talented.
As everyone knows he was injured last year. No way to make a fair judgement because of that. Obviously he is a bounce back candidate. Much like most of the Reds team good health will be crucial for many of them as there were record breaking injuries last year. Hopefully a new medical/training staff will be helpful. I am particularly interested to see if Sims and Antone will come back to full health. So many things in play this year not the least of which is what seems to be a kizillion players to sort through in spring training.
I’m not necessarily a fan of trading India at all – I like him a lot, actually – but just wanted to respond to all the people saying “Why would we trade him? He’s cheap and under team control for 4 more years!”
If India returns to form, and is cheap and under team control for 4 years, that means he would have a TON of value to the Reds… or to some other team in a trade!!
If we only trade guys when they are not cheap and not under team control much longer… then we’re making the Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier mistakes all over again. (Note how much more Castillo and Mahle brought back in trades, with 1.5 years remaining under contract, than someone like Cueto, who they traded with 0.5 years left under contract.)
If a team has a productive, known-quantity cheap player (in years 1-4, at the least), why trade him? A free agent with a 2.0 WAR is going to make about $8mm/year, if not more. India (at 2.0 WAR) will cost the Reds about $900k this year, giving them $7 million in “value” for this year alone. There is no financial point in trading that $7mm in value (and more in the future) for the type of prospects whom the Reds would get in return for India.
India is a garden-variety solid major leaguer. He is not Juan Soto or Luis Castillo. He also has a mediocre glove for a second baseman. Teams don’t give up good prospects for second basemen who might be slightly better than the average player. Trading India will not reap the Reds a player like Noelvi Marte, but will instead reap them a couple of midlevel prospects that may never even make it to MLB, or fizzle like Nick Senzel has so far. If a “rich” team needs a player like India, they will sign him in free agency, or make a trade with a team wanting to shed some payroll.
Maybe you are right that the other teams should value India more, but they just don’t seem to do so.
It would be yet another PR disaster, too.
I am not concerned about Jonathon India or Tyler Stephenson not producing this season. It’s the other 24 players on the roster I am concerned with.
I like the both, but both already have extensive injury histories, so there is no guarantee with either.
i would think that if the reds are truly going full “rays way” I would think India would certainly be on the trading block. There are a lot of cheaper, younger replacements for him in the pipeline. he likely is his highest peak trade value now. why not try to trade him for some young prospects?
He had 0.4 bWAR last year. He is therefore not at his highest peak trade value, and the Reds are not going to trade him.
At this point I don’t think the Reds need any more unproven prospects especially in the infield. I would prefer they would have more proven major league ballplayers in general. I’m not saying anything new, but I think India will be a leader in the Red’s surprising upcoming season.
One year India was a great baseball player who could do no wrong. One year later he struggles and he is “average ” or below average. I wonder those to comment like that of they ever hit a 99mph fastball or a 80 mph slider or a sinker? Probably not.
I think some fans forget that playing major league baseball is hard!!!
My point was that even if India was deemed to be average, an “average” major league player (with a WAR of 2) is a valuable piece. The major league average OPS last year was .705, which is exactly what India registered. India, though had a defensive bWAR of -1.4, which was god-awful. Fangraphs found him to be bad, too, and it found Joey Votto to be painfully bad and even Dick Stuartly bad.
I’ll chalk up India’s 2022 defense to lack of mobility due to injuries, and I think he will rebound to well above average offensively. But I think he is a left fielder in real life, or perhaps a first baseman. (I’d also suggest Nick Senzel to first base, but I am likely on an island on that one. Votto needs to DH only.)
Sorry,I don’t follow anything analytics. Has ruined the game.
Analytics haven’t ruined the game at all. The game is the same as it has been. You still have to get the guy out or you still have to avoid getting out and try to score runs.
All analytics have done to the game is change the way we understand and discuss the game. Players have improved their skillsets because of certain analytical things but that’s not new. Ted Williams famously had his analytics charts in the 40s about where he should swing at pitches. He was also a guy who preached hitting the ball in the air. A story from a week ago that I saw had Ted Kluszewski using video of his at bats to analyze his swing and make changes.
The game has always had analytics. Batting average is analytics. ERA is analytics. Some of the newer analytics go over my head because I haven’t put in the time to understand them. But it has hardly ruined the game because Wins Above Replacement exists.
A big chunk of the OD roster is set to make comebacks after health issues, including India, Stephenson, Votto, Barrero, Sims, Antone, Santillan and a few more. Lets hope they’ll be able to do so.
TJ Antone just announced via Instagram that he has a flexor strain and got a PRP injection today. From the video attached to the tweet below, it sounds like TJ is saying he expects to be out until mid season.
Antone has a history of being injured by over-training. Two Tommy Johns, and now PRP from rushing the recovery. As soon as he had the second TJ surgery, he announced that he would be back throwing 100 mph again. I figured right then that he was finished. IMO, he would be as effective throwing 95 with command, without stressing the arm as much.
But I hope that I am wrong and that he pitches effectively 3 more years for the Reds.