India.Arie

Recapping Saturday's best offensive performances

Jonathan India (CIN): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI, BB.

It feels relatively rare to see a top-five draft pick arrive on the scene with such little fanfare, so shortly after he was drafted. Maybe it’s because there seems to be little worth writing home about in Cincinnati, but Jonathan India’s arrival in the big leagues has come with seemingly none of the hoopla that’s surrounded the other top-fifteen 2018 draft alumni to reach the bigs in the last year, a group that includes Casey Mize, Alec Bohm, Nick Madrigal, Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, and Ryan Weathers.

It’s partly because India wasn’t considered anything special as a prospect; in fact, his stock began dropping nearly as soon as he was drafted, hitting an uninspiring .259/.365/.428 with just 34 extra-base hits in his first full minor league season, split between High-A and Double-A.

Somewhat surprisingly, however, India broke camp as Cincinnati’s starting second baseman and has more than held his own at the big league level, with last night’s 2-4 effort bringing him to .261/.367/.428 on the year, good for a very solid 118 wRC+. And while some of the names ahead of him on the rookie leaderboard (including Akil Baddoo, Jazz Chisholm, and Adolís García) got there through nearly instantaneous early-season hot streaks, India is just now getting going.

Saturday was the third consecutive multi-hit game for the rookie, whose Statcast numbers are middling (.331 xwOBA; .351 xwOBAcon) but has now hit an even .400 over his last eight starts, including four extra-base hits, two steals, and six walks against just five strikeouts. With 91st percentile sprint speed, the steals may not be a fluke, and it seems like that’s the kind of production we might see from a hot India, even if the overall line might wind up being a bit underwhelming for such a high draft pick. Speed, walks, and a smattering of power with good, flexible infield defense will always have a home in the big leagues.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Cedric Mullins (OF, BAL): 5-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.

There have now been seven five-hit performances of the 2021 season, and two of them now belong to Mullins after his 5-5 effort in Baltimore’s loss to Cleveland. Those five hits include his seventh and eighth homers of the season, bringing his OPS back to .890 after a mid-May slump that followed his torrid start. Leading off for the O’s, Mullins should rack up plenty of plate appearances, and with a K-BB under 9%, it should keep leading to a high volume of hits and runs for the breakout outfielder.

Shohei Ohtani (DH, LAA): 2-5, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.

You might wonder whether marveling at Ohtani will ever get old. I don’t, because it won’t. Ohtani was the sparkplug in Los Angeles’s 12-5 win over Seattle, catching Yusei Kikuchi by surprise with a 112 MPH first-inning ding dong that wasn’t even his hardest-hit ball of the night: that honor belongs to the 114 MPH line drive that was hit hard enough that it hung in the air long enough for Mitch Haniger to get to it. He followed all that up with an eighth-inning double that left the bat at a measly 94 MPH. Ohtani is hitting the ball harder than ever, and the results don’t lie, putting him in the top tenth of the league for both wOBA and expected wOBA. This is your MVP frontrunner until shown otherwise.

Francisco Lindor (SS, NYM): 2-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.

Lindor back? Lindor back! The 341 million dollar man hit his fifth homer of the season on Saturday night and appears to be beginning June on his first real Hot Streak as a Met. He now has a hit in eight streak games, going 14-35 since last Friday with five multi-hit efforts and six extra-base hits. As I said to D.J. Short recently, all the hemming and hawing over Lindor owes itself to the weird construction of the last couple of seasons. Looked at with a big picture lens, Lindor’s season-opening slump (and even his lackluster offense 2020) is generally no worse than any other slump he’s had throughout his career. Look out NL East, though, because this rolling graph is trending up sharply.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B, TOR): 3-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

The Vladdy Jr. breakout parade continued with gusto on Saturday, with the young star picking up three hits and his league-best 18th home run of the season, a majestic 365-foot shot into the left-field Buffalo sky. His incredible .338/.437/.670 line hasn’t come cheaply, either—he hits the ball harder than just about anybody else in the game, with more than half of his batted balls clocking in above 95 mph for the second straight year. After two up and down seasons, it’s safe to say that the 22-year old is justifying his ceiling as one of the league’s three or four most dangerous hitters.

Eric Haase (C/OF, DET): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Haase took Lucas Giolito deep twice in Saturday’s win in Chicago, putting Detroit’s first three runs on the board with two blasts to more or less the same spot beyond the left-field fence. Typically a catcher, Haase’s bat has been forcing itself into the lineup via the outfield as of late, as he’s put together a .985 OPS over his first 18 games of the season. He doesn’t have much in the way of pedigree, but with an expected wOBA on contact way above .500, Haase is definitely a name to keep an eye on, as he’ll have plenty of opportunities to keep hitting the ball hard in a frankly gross Detroit lineup.

Miguel Cabrera (DH, DET): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.

Though he’s primed to spend the next couple years as the league’s resident Pujols—a first-ballot Hall of Famer playing out the string on an outsized contract signed in better days—Cabrera still hits the ball hard as hell, as evidenced by the 101 MPH opposite-field rocket that left the Guaranteed Rate Field grass in about a second a half. Unfortunately, it’s starting to get into “last hurrah” territory for Miggy, who’s still hitting below .200 but still seems likely to reach 3000 hits and 500 HR at some point this year. Even as his power evaporated with age, Miggy was an outstanding enough hitter to carry a .282 batting line as recently as 2019, unfortunately, even those days might be in the past.

Josh Rojas (INF/OF, ARI):2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Rojas graced us with his first career multi-homer game last night, ambushing Brandon Woodruff with a 3-2 blast to dead center field to lead off the game. He followed that up with a nearly identical shot in the 7th inning to extend Arizona’s lead (which, naturally, they proceeded to blow). Rojas had been off to a tough start to June after a promising May saw him hit .320/.388/.495, and while his power is modest—multi-homer games probably won’t be in the cards again soon—his ability to play all over the field and solid plate discipline numbers give him a relatively high floor, at least in terms of real-world value.

Harold Ramirez (OF, CLE): 3-5, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.

While fans of the Cleveland baseball team are probably not happy to see Harold Ramirez batting cleanup on June 5th in a year in which a division title is firmly within reach, he justified it at least for one day on Saturday, scoring three runs and driving in two on the strength of three hits in Saturday’s 10-4 blowout win. He stroked the ball well on the whole, twice breaking 103 MPH on batted balls. Despite being unable to break camp with a Marlins team not expected to contend in 2020, Ramirez has done an admirable job as a stopgap for a perpetually-needy Cleveland outfield, slashing .277/.320/.468 in an even 100 plate appearances since joining the team.

Andrew Benintendi (OF, KC): 2-4, 3B, HR, R, 2 RBI.

Benny Biceps is quietly enjoying a healthy resurgence in Kansas City, raising his average to a career-best .295 on Saturday with his sixth homer and second triple of the season in Kansas City’s narrow loss to Minnesota. While the power he flashed in 2017 and 2018 hasn’t quite returned, his overall batted ball metrics have, and the fact that he’s already got 13 steal attempts after having made just 16 in all of 2019-20 is a testament to his unreliable health over the last two seasons. He has been caught stealing a league-high six times, but given his history and his assured place in the Kansas City lineup, Benintendi could be an appealing trade candidate for a team looking for an outfielder who isn’t a two-month rental.

Jesús Aguilar (1B, MIA): 4-6, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Now leading the National League with 42 runs batted in on the season, Aguilar produced the first four-hit game of his career on Saturday evening, including a critical ninth-inning single against Richard Rodriguez that would score Magneuris Sierra and send the game to extras. With a 118 wRC+ right in line with his career averages, Aguilar could also find himself appealing to a contending team looking for a little thump later in the season.

Nolan Arenado (3B, STL): 3-4, 2 RBI.

Arenado has spent the first two months of 2021 laughing the Coors effect out of the room, with his three hits on Saturday brought him to a .274/.320/.509 slash line to start off his time in St. Louis, good for a 125 wRC+ right in line with his early career numbers prior to last season’s dropoff. All that makes good for a 1.9 fWAR total, perhaps not the MVP-caliber numbers we’ve seen from Arenado in years past, but still enough to make him one of the two or three best third basemen in the game.

Omar Narváez (C, MIL): 3-4, HR, 3 R, RBI.

On the other side of Rojas’ two dingers was Narváez’s own excellent performance. The Milwaukee catcher is in the midst of his own offensive resurgence, jacking his sixth homer against Arizona and boosting his wRC+ to a healthy 152 on the year after checking in at just 60 last season, easily a career-low for a typically bat-first backstop. He’s now third among all catchers with 1.9 fWAR of his own, and while he runs low exit velocities, expected stats don’t see a ton of fluke in his game, with a .376 xwOBA coming in almost dead even with his .381 wOBA on the year.

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Zach Hayes

Zach is based in Chicago and contributes analysis and coverage for Pitcher List and South Side Sox. He also co-hosts the Shaggin' Flies podcast with Ben Palmer, and enjoys reading, Justin Fields highlights, and people-watching on the CTA. Find him on Twitter @pinetarkeyboard if, for some reason, you really want to.

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