Starting pitcher Brady Singer was expected to be the top draft pick from the Florida Gators in 2018. Singer has had a good spring but the Gator with the most helium is third baseman Jonathan India, who has moved himself into first round position and will likely be one of the earliest college hitters off the board. Let’s take a quick look as part of our 2018 MLB Draft coverage.
India attended American Heritage high school in Plantation, Florida. He was drafted in the 26th round in 2015 by the Milwaukee Brewers but did not sign. The Gators put him into the lineup immediately; India hit .330/.367/.440 with 13 steals in 234 at-bats as a freshman, then tailed off to .274/.354/.429 with 13 steals in 212 at-bats as a sophomore. However, he was a solid performer with wooden bats in the Cape Cod League for two summers, hitting .290/.405/.403 in ‘16 and .273/.390/.394 in ‘17.
India came into this spring as a second or third round possibility but his stock has soared. He’s been excellent in every respect in 2018, hitting .401/.546/.810 with 14 homers, 10 steals in 12 attempts, 39 walks and 32 strikeouts in 142 at-bats so far with very impressive defense at third base. Pre-season his tools were considered average across the board but his ratings have improved along with the numbers.
Listed at 6-1, 185, India is a right-handed hitter and thrower born December 15th, 1996. His glove is extremely well respected, featuring above-average range, arm strength, and reliability at third base, with some scouts feeling that he would be a decent shortstop.
What’s made the difference this year is offensive development. India has always had a good eye for the strike zone but it’s been even sharper this year; he’s already set a career high in walks and his BB percentage has doubled. Part of that may be because pitchers are working him more carefully but there seems to be genuine improvement in his selectivity as well.
The obvious key this year has been more power, as he’s more than doubled his isolated power numbers. He got 45 power grades pre-season but that’s at least 50 now with some sources going as high as 55. Kiley McDaniel at Fangraphs noted that India is in better physical condition this year. This has resulted in more bat speed and since he already had a grasp of the strike zone, the result was a breakout.
The main uncertainty at this point is the sustainability of the power surge with wooden bats. He hit for average and OBP on the Cape but can he maintain the improved SLG and ISO as he transitions into pro ball?
How teams assess that question will determine his status on draft day. As it stands he seems a lock for the first round due to his combination of offensive production for an elite program and strong defense, but whether that means the end of the first round or closer to the front remains to be seen.