India big favorite to be Reds’ first rookie of the year since 1999

Second baseman took off when he moved into leadoff spot in June

The Cincinnati Reds haven’t won a Rookie of the Year award since 1999 when reliever Scott Williamson, who had a 2.41 ERA in 62 appearances, captured the honor. The last position player to win the award was third baseman Chris Sabo in 1988. The last Reds second baseman to win was Pete Rose in 1963.

Jonathan India is likely to end all those droughts in 2021. He’s the favorite, according to all the major sports books, over Miami Marlins pitcher Trevor Rogers and Chicago Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom. The winner will be announced Nov. 8 on the MLB Network.

Although the Reds’ season ended with a disappointing September that saw the St. Louis Cardinals overtake them in the race for the second wild card, India was a bright spot all season, even in the final month when he hit .266 with four home runs and 10 RBIs.

“I’m not an expert on the rest of the league and the rookies of the year candidates,” Reds manager David Bell said during the last series of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates last weekend, “but I just can’t imagine someone being more deserving than Jonathan. He’s done everything in his power to make our team better. Personally, he’s had just a great season, great accomplishments.”

India, the fifth overall pick in the 2018 draft, led National League rookies with 69 RBIs and all rookies in baseball with 34 doubles, 71 walks and 96 runs scored. His .269 average ranked fifth. He led the Reds with 12 stolen bases.

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India made his big-league debut on Opening Day, going 2-for-4. He had 10 hits in his first six games.

“I started off pretty good my first couple series,” India said, “and then I went through the normal struggles of a baseball player, honestly, just the ups and downs here and there. It’s tough for anyone, of course, but I battled through it and got the opportunity to hit lead-off and I ran with it.”

India hit .230 through May, and his average was at .245 on June 5 when he moved into top spot in the batting order. He stayed in that position the rest of the season and especially thrived in June and July, hitting .303 and .319, respectively.

“It didn’t really change my approach,” India said. “It never changed who I was as a hitter. I think it just put me in a better spot with the guys behind me and allowed me to get pitches to hit and drive the ball.”

Bell said it was an easy decision to move India into the leadoff spot and that he probably waited too long to make the move.

“He deserves all the credit because he just recognized what he could do at the top of the lineup for our team,” Bell said, “and he adapted his game to that role. That’s not ever anything I would ever ask or expect out of a player. He just naturally did it because he knew what that role meant to our team, and by doing certain things, he could help us win more games. I do think by doing that it made him a better player. But the reason it happened was because he wanted to help us win, and I think that’s what stands out so much about Jonathan.”

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