In the NFL and NBA, every draft pick is exciting because you have high aspirations to see them play in the following year. However, the Major League Baseball draft is a draft like none other. Regardless of if a player is drafted out of high school or has been competing for a chance to play in Omaha, it is unlikely that player will make the opening day roster of the team that drafted them.
As a small market team, the Reds rely heavily on drafting solid players with the potential to produce in the big leagues as quickly as possible. Free agency is difficult for the Reds. Outside of the bullpen, the only player on the roster that was not acquired through the draft or a trade is Scooter Gennett, who was claimed off of waivers. The Reds tend to see names called on draft day eventually make it to the show, and while the current roster may not appear to be one that is homegrown, the draft is still a key role in the process of building a roster through trades.
The 2016 and 2017 drafts have been exciting for followers of the Reds, as they have owned the second pick in both drafts. In 2016, the Reds took who was considered to be the most MLB ready bat in the draft class in Nick Senzel. Senzel has struggled with vertigo during his time in the minors, but if he can overcome that he should be a key contributor when the team is ready to compete.
Last year, the Reds took then 17-year-old phenom Hunter Greene. Greene is a great example of how peculiar the MLB draft is. He is considered to be a player with generational talent. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was still playing at Notre Dame High School. Who is the only other high school baseball player to be featured on the cover of an issue of Sports Illustrated? You might have heard this name before, former number one overall pick, Rookie of the Year, MVP, and perennial all-star Bryce Harper. However, Greene’s projected MLB debut is not until 2021, which is shows how the MLB draft different from every other sport.
Pick Number Five
This year, the Reds held the number five overall pick in the 2018 draft. With that pick, they took the SEC Player of the Year, Jonathan India, out of the University of Florida.
Picking a college player is sometimes viewed as a negative because rather than being 17 or 18-years old, they are usually between the ages of 21 through 23. When it is a first-round pick, it is a completely different story. A first-round pick out of college is often a pick that will see the majors in a few short years.
If the Reds were competing this season, the team would most likely consider moving Senzel to the bigs if he continued to produce in the minors. Because they were essentially eliminated after April, or even earlier, they do not want to waste his service time. Based on India’s skill, experience, and age, he has all the potential to join the club when they are ready to compete.
So who is Jonathan India and what should be expected from him? India attended American Heritage High School, where he hit .405 his senior year with some signs of speed as well, swiping 25 of 27 bags. He was ranked by Perfect Game as the number one middle infielder in his class and was then drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 26th round of the 2015 draft. To the Reds good fortune, he did not sign and eventually ended up at the University of Florida, where he continued to produce at a high level.
The Florida Phenom
While at Florida, India excelled in his freshman year. He was named to the 2016 Baseball America Freshman All-America team, Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America team, D1baseball.com Freshman All-America team, NCBWA Freshman All-America team, Perfect Game/Rawlings Freshman All-America team, SEC All-Freshman team, as well as the Gainesville Regional All-Tournament team. Needless to say, India is a player that Florida, and the now the Reds, are lucky to have.
In his three years at Florida, he has accumulated a batting average over .300, and has recently seen a drastic increase in power. He hit 10 home runs between his first two seasons, but hit 19 and counting this season, including a moonshot to help his team advance to the Super Regionals.
How India Can Benefit the Reds
India provides power, as well as versatility. The Reds are hoping they drafted their future shortstop, who can contribute power at a position where it is rare to see the strength of a player like India. An infield consisting of India at short, Eugenio Suarez at third base, Joey Votto at first base and potentially Senzel at second base, could be one of the best hitting infields in the league, and the core of the Reds when they are ready to make a deep run in October.
India was a key asset in Florida’s championship winning team last season. The Reds are looking for him to bring that same winning mentality to Cincinnati to help the team advance past the first round for the first time since 1995.
With the Reds rebuilding, every draft pick is crucial to find a player that can contribute to the club as soon as possible to help the team get back on track. While it is uncertain of every pick in the MLB draft, the Reds feel that they found a player who will join the club in the upcoming seasons and produce at the level he did at American Heritage and the University of Florida to bring a culture of winning baseball in the queen city.
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