The Cincinnati Reds have several options for centerfield next season, but the one that makes the most sense in Nick Senzel.
The Cincinnati Reds had one of the best defensive centerfielders in all of baseball last season. But, in November, the team said farewell to Billy Hamilton who’s now playing for the Kansas City Royals. The Reds have a lot of options to fill Hamilton’s spot next season, but Nick Senzel should be the everyday centerfielder when the 2019 seasons starts.
I know, Senzel has never played the position before in his entire professional career which includes exactly ZERO Major League games. However, unless the Reds are willing to move Scooter Gennett, the team is going to have to get creative with ways to get Senzel’s bat into the lineup and playing him in centerfield is the Reds best option.
Yes, Scott Schebler may be the best in-house candidate to fill the centerfield role from a defensive standpoint. He has experience, albeit very little, playing the position. Schebler did show flashes last season, especially when he batted in the leadoff spot. However, Schebler ended the season in a terrible slump. To start the season, Schebler slashed .278/.351/.470, but closed the season slashing .202/.305/.368.
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Yasiel Puig has been mentioned as another option in centerfield. This would allow Jesse Winker to occupy right field, the position he’s more comfortable playing, while rotating Schebler, Matt Kemp, and Phillip Ervin in left field. While that’s very plausible, it takes Puig’s defense away from right field, where he excels, and replaces it with Winker, who’s an average defender at best.
Neither Winker nor Kemp are athletic enough to play the position, and Ervin, while a solid rotational piece in the Reds outfield, should not be considered an everyday player. Which ever way you slice it, unless the Cincinnati Reds spend some money or make a trade for a true centerfielder, the position is going to suffer defensively this season.
So, if that’s the case, the team might as well put its No. 1 prospect out there and see what he can do. Reds fans have been eagerly awaiting Senzel’s debut, but injuries last season slowed his entrance to the Major League stage. He appears to be healthy entering Spring Training and should be given every opportunity to win the starting job in centerfield.
Now, by no means does this mean that Senzel should exclusively just play centerfield. As we touched on earlier, there are players on the Reds roster that are capable of playing the position. But, if Senzel is going to be part of the big league roster, he can’t just be a utility player that gets pinch hit opportunities and a start every four to five days.
Senzel can fill in at the hot corner if Eugenio Suárez needs a day off. He certainly can stand in for Scooter Gennett at second base, seeing as how that’s the position he’s been groomed to play. He could also take over at shortstop for a game here and there. Senzel offers this club a lot of versatility.
Nick Senzel is an elite prospect and he needs to be given every opportunity to succeed at the Major League level. He’s sure to make his fair share of errors, but he’s a rookie. José Peraza led all National League shortstops in errors last season, but his offensive prowess overrode any concerns people had about his defense.
If the Cincinnati Reds go out and make a trade for a true centerfielder or sign one via free agency, then it’s obvious that Senzel will likely be relegated to a utility infield position next season. However, I believe that the Reds need to get his bat in the lineup and the best way to do that consistently, at least for the 2019 season, is to put him in centerfield.