It’s rare these days that you see teams willing to roll out rookies in their Opening Day lineup. They won’t admit to it, of course, but service time manipulation has long been a reason to hold players back for just a couple of weeks to ensure they’re around for a seventh season down the road.
Props to the Cincinnati Reds in this instance for avoiding the obvious financial ramifications while in camp in Goodyear, AZ this spring, and for noticing a certain je ne sais quoi around infielder Jonathan India. They saw he deserved a spot in the big leagues right that very moment, and unleashed him onto the baseball world as early as they possibly could.
It was easy to see why they had such trust in him. India stepped right into 2B despite having spent much of his adult life playing the hot corner, and didn’t miss a beat. On top of that, he hit right out of the gate, and after switching to the team’s leadoff spot, the entire offense simply took off.
In all, India hit .269/.376/.459 in 631 PA, stuffed 21 homers into the seats, was valued at roughly ~4 WAR by the fine folks that provide the WAR values, and looked every bit the part of a future - and current - franchise cornerstone. For his efforts, he was officially named the BBWAA National League Rookie of the Year on Monday evening, as the Reds relayed on Twitter.
Dreamed it... earned it...— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) November 15, 2021
Jonathan India is the ! pic.twitter.com/abXLiO1ikG
The former 5th overall pick reportedly took his game to another level at the team’s alternate training site in 2020 as the COVID pandemic shut down minor league ball across the continent, and perhaps that odd break and alternate instruction unlocked the talent that made him such a high draftee in the first place. He’d had some success in his early pro career, of course, but always had seemed to not have it all quite put together the way things fell for him this past season.
Of course, getting to pick the brains of the likes of Joey Votto and Nick Castellanos all day, every day surely couldn’t have hurt.
In all, India was named atop 29 of the 30 ballots, effectively a clear runaway winner of the award for the Reds. He joins the likes of Frank Robinson, Scott Williamson, Tommy Helms, Pat Zachry, and Chris Sabo as winners of the award in Reds uniform, among other(s), while also joining Votto as ‘players who deserved to win the award as rookies while wearing a Reds uniform.’
Congrats to Jonathan, and here’s t