Has TJ Friedl supplanted Jonathan India as the Reds leadoff hitter?

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6), outfielder TJ Friedl
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India (6), outfielder TJ Friedl / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan India had an up-and-down 2022 season, mostly due to injury. TJ Friedl, however, had a breakout rookie campaign for the Cincinnati Reds. Has Friedl supplanted India as the Reds' leadoff hitter heading into next season?

India took over as the Reds leadoff hitter midway through the 2021 season and did not relinquish that role until Friedl began getting more opportunities in the Cincinnati lineup as the 2022 season entered the final few weeks.

In all, India batted leadoff in 71 games for the Redlegs in 2022 and Friedl was atop David Bell's lineup card 42 times. While Friedl may receive more opportunities to hit leadoff in 2023, a lot of those opportunities may be dictates by the opposing starting pitcher.

Has TJ Friedl supplanted Jonathan India as the Reds leadoff hitter?

It's hard to fairly judge Jonathan India's second year in the big leagues based on the fact that he missed nearly one-third of season while dealing with a hamstring injury. Furthermore, he probably played hurt in at least half of the 103 games in which he did appear due to the lingering affects of the injury.

India also changed his body prior to the start of the 2022 season. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year, in an attempt to gain more power, added a ton of muscle during the 2021-22 offseason, and during an episode of the Jim Day Podcast, India actually attributed his injury-plagued sophomore campaign to the fact that he added too much muscle during the offseason.

Look for India to return to his leaner and faster physique in 2023. Perhaps the Cincinnati Reds second baseman will be quicker on the base paths as well. And that's the one area where fans could make the argument for TJ Friedl acting as the Reds leadoff hitter.

Friedl certainly has more speed. Baseball Savant tracks Friedl's sprint speed at 28.2 feet per second. That puts Friedl in the 72nd percentile. India is step slower with a sprint speed of 27.7 feet per second. According to Baseball Savant, India was slower in 2022 than during his rookie season.

But speed is only part of the equation when it comes to being a leadoff hitter. A typical leadoff hitter in today's game also needs to reach base at a decent clip. India not only has a higher career on-base percentage than Friedl, but his .327 OBP was actually higher than Friedl's .314 OBP as well.

Where Friedl did best India was in the power category, After hitting 21 round trippers and posting a slugging percentage of .459 in 2021, India saw his slugging percentage drop to .378 and the 25-year-old hit just 10 home runs in 431 at-bats. Friedl posted a .436 slugging percentage in 225 at-bats and launched eight home runs.

If anything, the stats suggest that perhaps Jonathan India should remain in his role as the Cincinnati Reds leadoff hitter heading into 2023, and TJ Friedl should be batting second. There's obviously a lot of the offseason left before David Bell sets the lineup for Opening Day, but don't be shocked if these two players are atop the batting order in 2023.

Next. Way-too-early Reds 2023 Opening Day roster predictions. dark