There have been only nine Major League rookies in the last 30 years who have totaled 20 homers, 30 doubles and 90 runs.
It’s an impressive list of talent. Guys like Scott Rolen, Tim Salmon and Albert Pujols. Newer stars like Corey Seager and Pete Alonso. Then there is the newest addition to the list this season: Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India, the favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year.
India is expected to become the franchise’s first Rookie of the Year since Scott Williamson in 1999 and the first position player since Chris Sabo in 1988.
“He's grown as a player right before our eyes,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He's become a better hitter, a more disciplined hitter. His nature is attack and be aggressive, be ready, not being afraid of anything. That approach at the plate has led to more walks.
“He's a young player who has great leadership abilities without even trying to do anything. He's just natural.”
India earned a spot in the Opening Day lineup, but the turning point in his season came in early May. He was slumping at the plate and he was losing playing time at second base to Nick Senzel. India started only three games between April 27-May 12, and he went hitless in those 11 at-bats with four strikeouts.
The league’s pitchers made an adjustment to India’s approach at the plate and it was his turn to make an adjustment of his own.
“You never want anybody to struggle up here, especially for us, it means we’re probably not playing very well,” Reds bench coach Freddie Benavides said. “But it’s always good to see what he’s made of and see what he does to get out of it. See his personality, see his work ethic, see everything. You have guys that will struggle and pout, or guys that will struggle and you know they’re done, young kids that come up. He just kept working and working. He believes in himself and you can see it.”
From the beginning of June, India ranks ninth in the Majors with a .391 on-base percentage and fourth in runs (79 in 103 games). He moved to the leadoff spot and he was a catalyst for the rest of the lineup.
"He’s tough as nails," Benavides said. "You’ve seen it. He gets hit and he shakes everything off. He doesn’t budge. He won’t give in. It’s like you are in for a battle.”
India is the first rookie in Major League history to record at least 20 homers, 20 hit by pitches and 10 stolen bases. His competition in the rookie of the year race is Miami Marlins starter Trevor Rogers, who owns a 7-8 record and a 2.67 ERA in 128 innings.
"David really believed in him in the spring," Benavides said. "He kind of pushed and, you know, he was right. The kid figured it out. It’s a testament to the kid. He’s worked his (butt) off.”
ROSTER MOVE: To make room on the roster for Reiver Sanmartin’s Major League debut on Monday, the Reds placed Luis Castillo on the family medical emergency list and designated catcher Beau Taylor for assignment.
Castillo is expected to return by Friday to make his final start of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
ANOTHER DEBUT: Riley O’Brien will fill Castillo’s spot in the rotation on Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox.
“He's been on the radar for a long time,” Bell said. “Just to see him in Cincinnati here and get a start, it's great for him but also for us to get to see him at this level.”
O’Brien, a 26-year-old righty, was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays last year for reliever Cody Reed. O’Brien had a 7-7 record and a 4.55 ERA in 22 starts at Triple-A Louisville this season with 121 strikeouts and 55 walks in 112 2/3 innings.
Following Sanmartin’s start Monday, it’ll be the fourth time in Reds modern history they will have starting pitchers making their MLB debut in consecutive games. It happened in 2017 (Rookie Davis and Amir Garrett), 1947 (Eddie Erautt and Bud Lively) and 1902 (Martin Glendon and Bob Ewing), according to Elias Sports Bureau.
O’Brien is rated as the No. 24 prospect in the organization by MLB.com and No. 28 by Baseball America.
JOTTINGS: Tyler Stephenson fell a triple shy of the cycle in Sunday’s 8-2 win over the Washington Nationals, reaching on a fielder’s choice and hitting a sacrifice fly in his last two at-bats. … “It wasn’t until (TJ) Friedl told me something,” he said. “Somebody is going to have to break a leg or something like that in the outfield for me to get a triple.’” … Kyle Farmer brought his son, McCoy, to his postgame press conference Sunday. McCoy was born Sept. 10. “I took him to the batting cage, and he smiled,” Farmer said, “so that's a good sign. Hopefully he's a hard worker.” … The team’s Spanish interpreter was unavailable after Friday’s game and Aristides Aquino declined to have another staff member fill the role. Aquino told reporters he wanted to conduct the entirety of his postgame press conference after his walk-off hit in his second language. “Don’t ask hard questions,” he joked.