CINCINNATI -- Many players never forget where they were standing or sitting when they were taken in the MLB Draft. As it happened on Monday night during the 2018 Draft, University of Florida third baseman Jonathan India was standing on first base after earning a walk when the Reds selected
CINCINNATI -- Many players never forget where they were standing or sitting when they were taken in the MLB Draft. As it happened on Monday night during the 2018 Draft, University of Florida third baseman Jonathan India was standing on first base after earning a walk when the Reds selected him with the fifth overall pick.
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India, who was playing with the Gators in the NCAA regional tournament, was not immediately available to discuss his future with Cincinnati. As he spoke about it Tuesday, he realized that something was happening even before the plate appearance.
"I saw my family and friends where they usually sit, and I just saw them all hugging," India said. "I was like, 'That's pretty weird. I guess something good happened.' Then a bunch of fans started to yell and stuff. Yeah, I definitely knew during the game.
"I'm trying to focus on the game and play, and I hear that stuff, which is awesome. So I'm happy."
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The Reds were also very happy they were able to land the 21-year-old.
"Best guy on the board," said Reds vice president of amateur scouting Chris Buckley. "We've seen a lot of him. A lot of my bigger guys live in Florida and he's been a really big player for a long time. We liked him quite a bit in high school."
Reds executives were watching India play on television from their Draft room, and perhaps they saw a good omen. In Florida's second regional game of the night against Florida Atlantic, he hit a booming home run to left field. Back in Gainesville, Fla., India was just keeping his emotions from getting out of whack.
"Stay humble and I still have a goal to finish to win a national championship for the team," India said. "Not think ahead and finish my season out."
During the regular season, India won the SEC Player of the Year Award after he batted .365 with 16 home runs and 40 RBIs in 54 games. A native of Coral Springs, Fla., India was semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
"He's got an advanced offensive approach," said Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams. "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 it in that same range. [He is a] very good defensive player, that will serve him well given some flexibility with him in terms of moving him around. But he's played a very good third base and we took a good close look at that as well. I think we've got a kid who moves quick."
Two years ago, the Reds took third baseman Nick Senzel second overall. During Spring Training, their current third baseman, Eugenio Suarez, was signed to a seven-year, $66 million contract.
As they've done in the past, the Reds didn't worry about current depth at positions and took who they felt was the best available player.
"We think he can help us in the big leagues in a relatively short period of time," Williams said. "But 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. These guys, 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 as some really good hitters."
The Reds believe that India is versatile enough to potentially play second base, shortstop, left field or right field. Senzel is currently being worked at second base with Triple-A Louisville and was tried at shortstop during his first big league camp at Spring Training. Suarez was originally a shortstop before moving to third base in 2016. India played shortstop in high school before moving to third base at Florida.
"He's very similar to Nick Senzel, very tough and a very aggressive kid and a real team guy," Buckley said. "Their coaches, who we know very well, just rave about the kid."
India wasn't considered a first-round talent in high school, and he wasn't tabbed as an elite prospect during his first couple of college seasons at Florida. But after two summers in the wooden-bat Cape Cod League, he turned the corner during his junior season.
"I just have a better feel with a wood bat," India said. "I learned the game more, mentally, and [my coach there] was real important for my success."
Williams was among the Reds' delegation in attendance in April when Florida played Auburn in a game that was billed as a pitching duel between Casey Mize and Brady Singer. In the first inning, it was India who stole the show when he slugged a two-run homer against Mize, who was taken No. 1 overall by the Tigers on Monday.
"That was a statement," Williams said. "To go up there with a full house, facing the best pitcher in the country. In the first at-bat, he hit a home run. That definitely made an impression on me. I don't put too much into any one at-bat. ... [but] that was a moment."
The fifth overall pick has a slot value of $5,946,400.
Cincinnati used its second-round pick (47th overall) to take right-handed pitcher Lyon Richardson, a high schooler from Jensen Beach, Fla. Richardson, who was ranked the No. 67 Draft prospect by MLBPipeline, was committed to play in college at the University of Florida but agreed to sign with the Reds on Tuesday.
"This is pretty much wrapped up and kicked in. I'm ready to get to work," Richardson said Tuesday afternoon.
The 18-year-old Richardson focused on pitching as a senior, and scouting reports say he can touch 96-97 mph with his fastball. He was 7-0 with a 0.58 ERA in 10 games. Over 48 1/3 innings, Richardson allowed 16 hits, walked 20 and had 90 strikeouts.
In Competitive Balance Round B with the 72nd overall selection, the Reds took right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray out of LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y. Gray, a 20-year-old ranked the No. 102 Draft prospect by MLB Pipeline, was 11-0 with a 1.25 ERA in 13 games.
Over 93 1/3 innings, Gray allowed 63 hits and 20 walks while striking out 105.
Richardson and Gray both converted to pitching from playing infield positions. Gray was a shortstop, while Richardson played mostly third base while dabbling in pitching. In less than a calendar year of full-time pitching, he was able to parlay it into a professional career.
"It's a big jump for me. I tried my best to perform this year and I set my goals high, and I pretty much accomplished them the way I wanted," Richardson said.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.