Photo: Redleg Nation Staff
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.