Is It Legit: Jonathan India

Jonathan India has quickly adapted with a mechanical tweak.

The advancement and acceptance of science and beneficial information by Major League franchises have certainly procured intended, as well as unintended outcomes.

Now more than ever, players understand their bodies, their tools, and how everything in-between works together. Coaches becoming better suited to communicate improvements to players not only affects the jewels of a respective farm system but also players who may have fallen out of favor elsewhere.

The 21st-century approach to player development, in my mind, will definitely behoove the upper-echelon talent, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more cast-offs round out into form. And all that information is great, and can only be of benefit. But sometimes, like in other areas of life, you might learn even more just BS-ing with your friends.

Which leads us to Jonathan India

When India was drafted fifth overall by the Reds out of the University of Florida in 2018, he was painstakingly my favorite collegiate bat that specific draft cycle. Sharing a first-round with Alec Bohm, Nick Madrigal, Jarred Kelenic, Trevor Larnach, and others, I was just attached to India’s swing and approach.

After producing a career .941 OPS in the SEC over three years, India had two years of minor league seasoning before spending all of last year at the Reds alternate site during the shortened COVID season. In college, India’s bat played bigger than his frame, and he always had an above-average sense of the strike zone. While the power hasn’t been nearly as prevalent, he remains a stingy out because of his uncommon awareness of the plate.

Over India’s first 36 big-league games, he slashed .221/.321/.360 with only seven of his 25 hits of the extra-base variety. When those numbers are crunched in the proper manner, you get a 87 wRC+. You love the 100-point difference in his batting average to his on-base percentage, but the rookie is still navigating his way through major league pitching. However, he’s seen more sunshine than squalls over the last two weeks.

First 36 games 131 .681 .135 .265 .300 87
Last 10 games 35 1.247 .296 .450 .524 234

That’s a rather significant spike in terms of production. India’s recent trajectory could very well be a simple case of a hitter getting hot, getting better pitches to hit, whatever you want to boil it down to, but for someone with mechanisms that may not have seemed worrisome to others, the 24-year-old decided to make a change. And it’s working.

The Toe-Tap

Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that with the help of his Tyler teammates Naquin and Stephenson, India ditched his massive pre-pitch leg lift for a more subtle toe-tap. Funny enough, the tape shows a hitter more on time and more confident through the entirety of his swing.

India’s average exit velocity is only in Baseball Savant’s 11th percentile, but in unison with his hot streak, his hard-hit rate has also seen a bump. Previously holding his own almost solely on his feel for the barrel, India has only been using the toe-tap since May 30, so the sample is hardly a week’s worth. But if you’re looking for evidence as to why he wanted to change his attack at the plate, I give you May 29, the day before India brought the toe-tap to game action.

Yeah, it’s a 1-2 count, but India’s load leg gets down way too late, forcing his back side to play catch up. The leg lift also forces his top-half into unnecessary movement, which takes his head and eyes off the centerline. As a rookie playing his first full season you’d expect struggles and to see some swings that look like this, but considering his entire profile as a player lacking hard contact or much lift, I can understand the desire to mix things up.

The next day, we see India swinging at a similar pitch albeit in a hitter’s count, but he looks entirely different.


Never mind the result, focus on the process. India, who I believe has the tools to spray the baseball to all fields more often than he’s shown, looks intent on driving this fastball to right field. Most importantly, he looks confident in his ability to do so as well. As far as foul balls go, this one is impressive for a guy tweaking how he tries to hit a baseball after only a day.

Since May 30, India is 9-17 with 93% of his contact being labeled medium-to-hard hit. Of those nine hits, two have been doubles and two have been home runs, with 36% of his extra-base hits this season having taken place this weekend against the Cardinals. One of those swings? A 109.2 mph double the other way.

What a difference a few more days made, huh? I mean, that’s as sturdy and confident a swing as India has probably had as a big leaguer. The baseball leaving the bat at 109 mph is all the evidence you really need, but even the visual is much more aesthetic. Since adding the toe-tap, India has managed five batted-ball events of at least 105 mph, that being 21 plate appearances. In his previous 145 plate appearances, he produced only seven such events.

The Verdict: Legit

India has a lot of advanced tools, and being picked fifth overall tends to exhibit such thinking. Hitting Major League pitching is as difficult, if not more so, than a casual fan would care to admit, so a current .261/.368/.423 rookie slash would provide most players sweet solace.

But India identified a problem, and with the help of his friends, has hit at a rate and demonstrated through new mechanics that something is working. Given the opportunity to play everyday and as someone with second base roster eligibility, India is capable of producing expectant to above-average offensive numbers as a middle infielder. His style of hitting is also more conservative and thought-out than his free-swinging colleagues, which should continue to lead to more competitive at-bats.

Still available in around 85% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, I wouldn’t be afraid to take a chance on the red-hot rookie.


Featured Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Nick Cicere

Colorado State Ram, Orioles fan, and Anthony Santander stan, Nick is a fantasy writer for Pitcher List that also writes about the O's for SB Nation's Camden Chat blog. When he's not playing MLB The Show, Nick is probably on Fangraphs.

One response to “Is It Legit: Jonathan India”

  1. theKraken says:

    “Now more than ever, players understand their bodies, their tools, and how everything in-between works together.”

    What were these exact same players doing five years ago? How insulting is this to the generations of players that outworked this current generation which pays lip service to hard work?

    I am certain that coaching is at an all-time low. I doubt that coaches have much to say to players about anything. I don’t think there is any accountability for being completely unprepared or embarrassing the team. We are in a sink hole, not the top of the mountain. Modern players say that they trust the science and we call that working hard. I am sure that pitchers throw balls and hitters take BP, but I don’t think that there is a coach saying anything about anything. You could have written the same article without the first two paragraphs. Ditching a leg kick for a toe tap at the advice of your friends does not really fit those paragraphs either. Buddy, baseball is in a pitiful state – we have to stop pretending that it is not actively getting worse. Pretending that people are working ward when they are not is largely to blame.

    I think the industry was generally in agreement that India was a reach in his draft. Never draft a college breakout that high unless the tools are awesome and they never were. He was at the top of my do not draft list from day 1. This is probably a modern scouting failure as college performance was weighted greater than the tools. The ceiling has always been the question and I don’t think that has changed. It was not a great draft at the time which is the reason that he snuck up so high. I do apologize for dumping on one of your favorites. I think he is Brian Anderson if he is a big leaguer. He is a guy that I am never targeting and happy to see on someone else’s roster. While he could breakout like anyone else, I think he looks a lot like what the scouting reports always said, which is solid over spectacular… which is a bad thing to draft that high. Take away that draft slot and I don’t think he is even in the big leagues and nobody is talking about him. While I do like the solid AB angle and appreciate the lack of Ks, I just don’t see what there is worth chasing. He never hit a lot in the minors and the tools were never there. His best attribute is his BB rate and that is never a legit carrying tool. I hope I am wrong. The league needs actual good players. I have watched him zero this year, so I don’t provide any insight other than historical context. I would absolutely expect improved confidence amidst a hot streak – that is kind of the idea.

    Nice choice of a player that I had not though about looking at. I appreciate it. While I am not in by any stretch he is now on my radar.

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