When the Cincinnati Reds drafted Jonathan India back in June the question asked was where would he eventually play? In college he played third base at Florida. But he was said to be very athletic and many believed he could slide to second base. As it has been with Nick Senzel, those positions are currently filled. And they are filled at the Major League level by two all-star caliber players. And while one of them may be gone by 2020, Nick Senzel – one of the best prospects in the entire game, also plays those positions. That may leave India blocked in the future, too.
The Reds recently decided to try and play Nick Senzel in left and center field during instructional league in order to try to find a place to play him. Back in July the Reds began to tinker with the idea that perhaps Jonathan India could play shortstop. I happened to be in Greeneville the day that it happened the first time. Some guy named Barry Larkin also happened to be there and was working with him during the series. Here’s what I wrote after that game:
I’m not sure based on what I saw in 9-innings of baseball whether or not he can handle the position in the long term or not. What I do know is that I certainly feel comfortable saying he should be playing shortstop frequently to get a much better idea. The athleticism is certainly there. And at least on one night, the range seemed to be, too. Whether or not that’s in Greeneville is a different story. Miguel Hernandez has been the starting shortstop there, and he’s a very, very good defender, and is showing good signs with the bat, too.
That would be the only game he played shortstop for nearly a week. On July 22nd he would make the start at shortstop in the 2nd game of a double header. It was the last time he played for the Greeneville Reds. Four days later he began playing in Billings. That was rather short lived, too – he played in all of three games. All of those games were at shortstop, though. An injury to Jeter Downs in Dayton opened up playing time for the Dragons. The Reds promoted India on July 30th. He would spend the rest of his time with Dayton in 2018. He made three starts at shortstop moving forward – but mostly played third base.
Cincinnati Enquirer Reds beat writer Bobby Nightengale was out in Arizona to cover some of the instructional league, as well as some of the Arizona Fall League. One of the things he checked up on was Jonathan India. Of the things that India was working on was small adjustments with his swing, but the thing that jumped out was that he noted he was working at short a lot.
During the instructional league, India was making small adjustments with his swing in his last few days in Arizona. The right-handed hitter received instruction from Barry Larkin, Eric Davis and other coaches after batting practice sessions.
“Just tweaking stuff with my swing a little bit,” India said. “Getting a little bit more reps. Infield-wise, I was working at short a lot. Just finding my footwork.”
Shortstop was a position where the Cincinnati Reds were lacking performance during the 2018 season. None of the full-season shortstop options were able to post an OPS of .700 during the year. Jeter Downs did, but he spent less time at shortstop, by a decent amount, than his counterpart Jose Garcia. When it comes to hitting, Jonathan India projects better than any of the guys that played shortstop during the past season. Defensively, he certainly doesn’t project as well as some of those guys do. But, if he can actually handle the position, just like I wrote about Nick Senzel and center field last week, he needs to be playing there every single day moving forward.
Hunter Greene may throw earlier than expected
In another topic that Bobby Nightengale touched on while in Arizona, Hunter Greene may throw sooner than expected. In late July he tore his UCL in his pitching elbow and was shut down. The tear was apparently not that significant as Greene chose to go with the option of rehab instead of immediately undergoing Tommy John surgery. The results on that are mixed, but there are success stories along the way. The injections that guys are capable of getting these days are better than ever before and can help repair smaller tears. Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani both went this route and returned without having to have their ligament replaced.
Currently he’s out in Goodyear continuing his rehab (well, this weekend he was in Louisville helping Jo Adell with a local camp for baseball players). He is not throwing yet. Instead he’s following the rehab program that includes plenty of lifting and other exercises, helping strengthen his arm. What jumped out though, from Nightengales article was that Hunter Greene may begin throwing in December or January.
As noted in the article, that was news to Hunter Greene because of how soon it was. Obviously he will be checked out before he goes out there to try and start throwing. But it seems that he, much like the rest of us, expected him to hold off on throwing until it was closer to spring training.
This could be a good thing. Even if it winds up being a not-so-good thing. First, let’s examine the best case scenario. Hunter Greene’s rehab program worked as they hoped. That means he will start throwing at some point in December and would be ready to pitch in spring training and miss no time at all in 2019. That’s the best case scenario.
On the flip side, let’s look at the not-so-good scenario. Things didn’t quite work out as planned and throwing doesn’t feel right, or an examination shows that the elbow didn’t heal as much as they hoped. That would mean that it’s likely that the next step would be to go ahead with Tommy John surgery. If that’s going to happen in December or January, instead of March, that could mean that Hunter Greene misses less baseball time.
The range of time in which a player misses after Tommy John surgery can vary quite a bit. The information we have suggests that younger guys do return quicker than older guys. Still, the fastest we see guys return is about 12 months. Some guys miss 16-18 months. Hunter Greene is certainly young. He turned 19 in August. If we work on the premise that he would miss 14 months before being “game ready”, which is not the fastest timeline, having the surgery in January instead of March makes a big difference.
On that timeline, it would mean that Hunter Greene would miss only the 2019 season, but none of the 2020 season. If he were to wind up having the surgery in March that would mean he could miss nearly half of the 2020 season, as well as all of the 2019 season. Long term, that is nothing. In the short term, it could mean reaching the Major Leagues and contributing sooner.
Everyone hopes that the rehab works, his elbow heals and surgery is just something we all once thought could be an option. That’s the best case and one everyone is rooting for. But if there’s any upside to the not-so-best-case-scenario, this could be it.