David Bell needs to stop moving Jonathan India up and down in the Reds lineup

Reds infielder Jonathan India is still getting on base as much as ever.
Cincinnati Reds v San Francisco Giants
Cincinnati Reds v San Francisco Giants / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

During the offseason, there was a lot of speculation about whether the Reds would consider trading Jonathan India. They ended the 2023 season with a crowded infield and the addition of Jeimer Candelario only muddled things further.

Reds President of Baseball Operations Nick Krall eventually put those notions to rest, signing India to a two-year arbitration extension and eliminating any thoughts of shipping the former NL Rookie of the Year out of town. Injuries to Matt McLain and TJ Friedl, along with a suspension for Noelvi Marte, further solidified India's role on the 2024 roster before Opening Day.

Despite the consistent playing time, things haven't exactly gone as planned. India is hitting a career-low .233 with just six extra-base hits in 133 plate appearances. He's chipped in four steals and provided serviceable defense at second base, but overall, Reds fans were hoping for a bit more.

Reds manager David Bell needs to trust Jonathan India in the leadoff role

The one thing India's doing really well, however, is getting on base. India currently has a 12.8% walk rate, good for 23rd among 168 qualified hitters. On top of that, his strikeout rate is down to 18.6%, which is two percentage points better than last year.

Despite the lack of batting average, India currently has a .340 on-base percentage. He's fourth on the team with that mark, trailing only Elly De La Cruz, Jake Fraley, and Spencer Steer. And that's exactly the kind of trait you want in a leadoff hitter.

More often than not, Reds manager David Bell has deployed India at the top of the lineup. India has 23 starts in the leadoff spot this year, and in those starts has posted a .337 OBP while walking 15.4% of the time.

Unfortunately for India, Bell decided to shift the second baseman down in the batting order more frequently when TJ Friedl returned from the IL on May 7. India has started just two games in the leadoff spot since Friedl initially returned to Cincinnati.

But Friedl was forced to return to the IL on Monday afternoon after suffering a broken thumb on a hit-by-pitch in Sunday's matchup with the San Francisco Giants. Bell had India lead off against Arizona Diamondbacks' lefty Jordan Montgomery on Monday night but immediately returned him to the 7-hole on Tuesday with a right-hander on the mound.

Jonathan India should be the Reds' leadoff hitter with TJ Friedl on the IL

With the Reds back to where they were two weeks ago, Bell is going to have to make a choice. It has been tough to watch the team struggle in the month of May and in some ways, a change is needed. But when you have someone with elite plate discipline and a track record of being able to get on base, you have to strongly consider keeping that guy near the top of the lineup.

Over his career, India has put up a .360 OBP while batting leadoff. There are benefits to keeping your best hitters grouped together in the lineup, and it's best for the team if De La Cruz is consistently batting with men on.

Despite the low batting average, India gets on base enough to warrant keeping the leadoff job. David Bell needs to trust that India can keep getting the job done because it gives the Reds more opportunities to score runs.

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