The Cincinnati Reds drafted a junior third baseman from the Southeastern Conference in the first round for the second time in three years.
Two years after selecting Tennessee’s Nick Senzel with the No. 2 pick, the Reds picked Florida Gators third baseman Jonathan India with the fifth pick of the first round Monday night.
“I think we’ve got a kid who’s going to move quick,” said Dick Williams, the Reds’ president of baseball operations in an interview with local reporters at Great American Ball Park minutes after the pick. “He’s got a profile similar to Senzel, coming from the same conference. Similar age. I’d like to think he’s a guy that can move quickly.”
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India, originally from Coral Springs, Fla., and American Heritage High School, was named the 2018 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. He hit .365 with 16 home runs, 40 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 54 regular-season games.
The Reds signed third baseman Eugenio Suarez to a seven-year contract in March. They also have Senzel, who’s hitting .267 in 28 games at Triple-A Louisville. Those players have position flexibility as does India, who has played some shortstop at Florida.
“We think he’s the best player that was there for us,” Williams said. “We think he can help us in the big leagues in a relatively short period of time. We think he’s the most valuable asset. We’ve had this conversation a lot of times. You can never have too many good players. Suarez can play multiple positions. Senzel can play multiple positions. We’re confident India can play multiple positions. We’re starting to accumulate what we think are going to project to be really good hitters. This lineup is going to come together as these guys develop.”
Earlier in round one, the Detroit Tigers took Auburn right-handed pitcher Casey Mize with the first pick. The San Francisco Giants followed with the selection of Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart.
With the third pick, the Philadelphia Phillies selected Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm. The Chicago White Sox drafted Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal with the fourth pick.
The first four picks went pretty much the way the Reds thought they would, Williams said, so they were prepared to draft India.
“He was definitely someone we were paying a bunch of attention to, along with a bunch of those guys at the top,” Williams said. “You never know what’s going to happen. You see those mock drafts. Even this afternoon, there was still a lot of uncertainty as to what was going to actually happen.”
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India was playing in a NCAA regional tournament game with Florida when the Reds drafted him. He was hitless in his first two at-bats against Florida Atlantic. If the Gators lose the game, they would play again Monday night. On Saturday, he was 1-for-4 with a home run in a 3-2 tournament victory against Jacksonville.
“He’s got an advanced offensive approach,” Williams said. “To do what he did this year in the best conference in the nation speaks to his ability. He’s got a hit tool but with more power than some of the other guys we were looking at in that same range. Very good defensive player. That will serve him well and give us some flexibility with him in terms of moving him around, but he’s played a very good third base. We took a close look at that as well.”
This was the third year in a row the Reds had a top-five pick. They drafted Senzel with the No. 2 pick in 2016 and right-handed pitcher Hunter Green with the No. 2 pick in 2017. The last time they had the No. 5 pick, they selected right-handed pitcher Pat Pacillo in 1984.
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