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How much stock do you put in a player who only had one great season in college?
The two hottest names this week for the upcoming MLB Draft is high school outfielder Nick Schnell, and University of Florida’s Jonathan India. Schnell has hit 10 home runs this prep season which will always catch eyes of scouts and is now projected to be a mid-first round pick. Meanwhile, in Baseball America’s most recent mock draft they have India going fourth overall to the White Sox.
For those that watched Florida’s run to the National Championship last summer, you’d be a bit surprised to see India’s name ranked that high. Shoot, if you have been watching the college season since the beginning of this year you’d be surprised to see India mocked that high. It has been quite the transformation for the third baseman who is putting up unreal numbers.
India had an impressive Freshman season in 2016 hitting .303/.367/.440 with 16 doubles, two triples, four home runs with 40 RBI, and 22 walks to 43 strikeouts in 67 games played. Setting himself up for a successful Sophomore season, but while the team won it all, India’s play regressed. In 2017, India hit .269/.351/.423 with 14 doubles, six home runs with 34 RBI, and 23 walks to 41 strikeouts. Following a two-year pattern of Nick Hostetler’s picks, the bat and plate discipline wouldn’t suggest he’d be a target for the White Sox coming into 2018.
That’s why I pose the question to you. How much stock do you put in a player who only had one great season in college? I ask because India doesn’t look like the same player from 2017 or 2016. He’s going to be a Golden Spikes Award finalist being the offensive leader for the number one team in the country.
India’s numbers: .382/.524/.771 in 48 games hitting 10 doubles, three triples, 15 home runs with 38 RBI, and 41 walks to 36 strikeouts. Those are jaw-dropping when you consider that India is doing this in the toughest conference in the country.
Just look at his rankings in the SEC:
- 2nd in Batting Average
- 1st in OBP
- 1st in SLUG
- 4th in Home Runs
- 1st in Walks
Now that is a type of player that would fit the recent mold of player Hostetler has selected the last two years.
This past Tuesday night, South Florida visited Gainesville. Too bad it wasn’t this Friday where we could have seen Brady Singer vs. Shane McClanahan, but alas both teams went with young arms to start the game. I figured this would be a good opportunity to see India mash. It was a high-scoring affair, Florida overcame a six-run deficit to beat South Florida 11-8. With all of those runs scored, one would think India was heavily involved.
Nope. He went 0-for-4 with a walk. Had two great opportunities to drive in runs but struck out looking with runners on second and third (See – already a fit for the White Sox), and with a runner on third with one out India hit a chopper to the third baseman who easily threw out the baserunner at home plate.
If that was the only game you saw of India you’d be wondering why Baseball America would mock him fourth overall.
Let’s pull the tape from his at-bat against assumed number one pick of this year’s draft class, Casey Mize.
On a 1-0 sinker, India crushed it to the left field bleachers that set the tone and gave Brady Singer a lead to work with. This at-bat gives you a good look at India’s swing mechanics.
India starts each swing with his bat on the shoulder which kind of reminds me of Cal Ripken Jr. As the pitch is released, India has a high leg kick and his hands move the bat off his shoulder. Unlike Nick Madrigal who uses his leg kick as a timing mechanism, India’s leg kick allows his hips to get through the zone. He’s able to twist the front hip, and as the front leg lands, twist pulling the back hip maximizing power through the swing. Hips directly pointing at the pitcher and great eye contact with the ball through the swing.
Compared to Alec Bohm and Nick Madrigal, I like India’s swing the best. One problem I have noticed is that India against pitches on the outside corner often has his hips fly out shifting momentum away from the ball. Fastballs wouldn’t be an issue, but I wonder how India would react to a slider sweeping towards the outside corner. Could he make an adjustment with his front foot to land more inside towards the plate directing his hips through an outside swing? That would be something I’d be looking for in future games.
Defensively, India could be surprisingly flexible. Unlike Bohm, there’s no question India could stick at third base, but he has started seven games at shortstop. Asking around about his position flexibility, and there are some who think that it might be worthwhile for a team to give India a shot at shortstop. If not there, a team can move India to second base and possibly improve offense there. Again, the White Sox could use better infield depth in the system and if scouts think India can move around the infield, that only increases his value.
Again, it all comes down to if you’re skeptical about India’s amazing progression from last year to now. Perhaps India has figured out the adjustments and the player we are watching in 2018 is the real deal. Or, India is playing out of his mind and he’s somewhere in between versions of 2017 and 2018. One is a Top-5 talent, and the other is a late first-round, early second-round talent.
I think there is something to be said for players with a longer track record of success, and still would prefer the White Sox to go with Nick Madrigal or Brady Singer ahead of Jonathan India at pick four. However, as Jim Callis posed to me on the Sox Machine Podcast, who would I want the White Sox to pick if Casey Mize, Madrigal, and Singer are off the board? In that case, I would seriously consider India as the pick.
Other draft notes:
- Joey Bart impressed me with his defensive abilities behind the plate.
— Josh Nelson (@soxmachine_josh) May 9, 2018
- Nick Madrigal finally struck out (twice), but he’s still hitting .449/.488/.590 on the season.
- Friday’s premier matchup: South Florida vs. Wichita State – Shane McClanahan vs. Alec Bohm.
- If you’re staying up late and have the Pac-12 Network, Stanford vs. Oregon State will be a great series this weekend. Lots of MLB Draft talent involved with an opportunity to look at six players who could be taken in the first two rounds.