But a strong case can be made that no other Gators in the last decade matched the all-around greatness of Jonathan India in 2018. Florida's junior third baseman enters week 10 hitting .438/.562/.860, ranking him first in the nation in OBP and second in OPS - and he's doing it against the best competition college baseball has to offer, in the rugged Southeastern Conference. India leads the SEC in those triple-slash categories, and he's one off the conference lead in home runs (12). He has eight stolen bases in nine attempts. And he's quite possibly college baseball's best defensive third baseman. He's the total package, and he's performing at an incredibly high level for the nation's best team.
"We've had some other guys in the past - Preston Tucker, Mike Zunino - we've had a few guys that have gone on a run like this, but this has been different," O'Sullivan said. "It's kind of like comparing him to a Zunino type: he plays a premium position, and he's just defending at such a high level, it's not just one part of his game. All phases he's performing at an extremely high level. He's not putting any pressure on himself, I don't think the draft has been an issue at all. I think he's kind of handled himself in a way that a true veteran would."
It may seem to the casual observer that India's sensational season came out of nowhere, considering he's nearly doubled his OPS from a year ago (.774). But to O'Sullivan and to scouts, India's emergence as the nation's best college third baseman feels more like fait accompli.
India has a premium pedigree and tools to match. He showed up in Gainesville as a blue-chip recruit, and scouts tagged him early on as one of the top position-player prospects for the 2018 draft after he hit .303 with 16 doubles during a solid freshman year in 2016. But he failed to take the anticipated jump to superstardom as a sophomore, hitting a modest .274 with a .429 slugging percentage, down from .440 the year before. As he entered his junior year, many observers had begun to wonder when the production would match the tools, and the hype.
"I said to him at our end of fall meetings - he had a good fall, and the thing we were stressing with him was to match up the production with the skill set, because the skill set has always been there," O'Sullivan said. "He was a big prospect coming out of high school, just the numbers hadn't matched up with his abilities. But he had a good freshman year, a really good freshman year, and last year he just wasn't quite as sharp, but he still went to the cape and hit like .300."
Scouts liked India's bat speed and overall game in the Cape, where he finished .273/.390/.394, though he hit just one home run. It seemed like just a matter of time until the power came, and boy has it come this year. Through 117 at-bats, India already has more homers (12) than he hit in 442 at-bats over his first two seasons (10).
The power surge really began during his current 24-game hitting streak, which began March 9 against Rhode Island. That streak began with seven straight two-hit games, and has grown to include 16 multi-hit games, along with seven doubles, three triples, eight homers and 21 RBIs. India is hitting an absurd .513/.623/.975 during that 24-game hitting streak.
"I mean, I guess I have a little bit more juice this year," India said a couple of weeks ago after hitting a homer to left field against Vanderbilt in the series opener. "I'm not trying to hit homers by any means, but I just put a good swing on the ball and it carried."
Later in that weekend, India showed off his opposite-field pop, driving another long ball out to right-center. His ability to drive the ball with authority to all parts of the ballpark is a result of hard work on his approach, and innate strength in his compact 6-foot, 200-pound frame.
"He's strong in all the right places. He's strong in his core, he's got strong hands, strong forearms. he's an extremely hard worker," O'Sullivan said. "He had power out of high school, but it was only to the pull side. If you went and watched him take BP, he would launch to the pull side, but he was susceptible to balls on the outer half of the plate. It's taken him a couple years to figure that out.
"(This year) he's used the whole field. He's not really gotten into any stretches where he's just been one side of the field. He's been pretty consistent that way as far as staying through the middle of the field. I was talking to (hitting coach) Craig (Bell) the other day about his BP; in the first round, execution - he never launches the ball to the pull side unless it's the last round. Everything he hits is squared up from that right center to left center gap, and he doesn't come off it until the final round. He's trained himself to stay in the middle of the field. He hit two balls out to dead-center field at our place the other day in one round, with no wind. Which doesn't happen very often."
He's also become a more patient hitter, who doesn't get himself out nearly as often. After posting a 45-85 walk-strikeout mark over his first two seasons, India has 30 walks and 26 strikeouts as a junior.
"I've matured more as a player. I feel like I've been in the league for two years now, and I'm realizing more things, and I've learned from my past years," India said. "Not swinging at pitchers' pitches, having a good approach at the plate. And just being more mature, not getting down on myself after bad at-bats. It's working out so far, I'm happy."
In addition to showing an elite hit tool and power tool, India has proven he can beat opponents with his speed. Against Vanderbilt, India dropped down a bunt and then blazed up the line in 3.85 seconds - a premium time for a righthanded hitter on a drag bunt. He has always been an instinctive and aggressive baserunner, and he plays the game the same way no matter the circumstances. O'Sullivan tells a great anecdote that reinforces that point.
"His freshman year, our last game of the year against Texas Tech in the College World Series, he hits a ball down the line, nobody on, and he gets banged out at second base - that's the last out of the season. The season's over," O'Sullivan said. "I told him, 'I want you to understand something, Jonathan: if that play happens 10 times in a row, you absolutely made the right decision to stretch that thing into a double. He had to make a perfect throw to get you, but absolutely without the shadow of a doubt, you made the right decision.' Most guys would have rounded first hard and not taken that chance, and he did.
"He never gives you a poor effort down the line. He never takes an infield off in pregame. The other neat thing is, it's hard. You can kind of get wrapped up in your own little world. These guys are 21 years old, there's a lot expected of them, especially him, he's probably elevated where he's going to go in the draft now. But he's so engaged with the team. … He's always at the right end of the dugout. He's always down there by me. When he's not hitting, he's not in the middle of the dugout BSing or screwing around, or in his own little world. He's right there with me, in every pitch. He's watching the other guys hit, encouraging them, giving them advice."
And then there's the defense piece. India isn't putting up these crazy numbers while playing first base or left field; he's manning a challenging defensive position, and he's made just three errors on the season. He filled in ably at shortstop earlier this year when Deacon Liput was suspended, before returning to the hot corner, where his footwork, body control, strong and accurate arm and instincts are all assets.
"It's the hand eye, same as the hitting ability. He's got some really, really good flexibiliy in his lower half," O'Sullivan said. "He gets below the ball, he's pretty much textbook defensively. He never gets flashy or stylish, we call it the olé, he never gets beside the ball. It's always in front of him, he doesn't shy away from balls hit hard. He can really come get a slow roller. It's just really good. You never worry about him, ever, defensively."
That entire package makes India a slam dunk first-round pick this June, and gives him a real chance to be the first position player drafted. It also makes him the best all-around player in college baseball in 2018, and a driving force behind top-ranked Florida's bid to repeat as national champion.
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