Spring training is finally here after a long offseason and there is still a big question looming in the Cincinnati Reds organization; when should No. 1 prospect Nick Senzel make his major league debut?
Nick Senzel is the No. 1 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization and his major league debut is probably the most anticipated of any other prospect since Jay Bruce. He will most definitely find his way to the big leagues this season, and given the reports from Spring Training and the response of manager David Bell, it appears the job in center field is his; but the timing of his call-up is one the Reds will not want to mess up.
There is a very strong case for getting Senzel to Cincinnati ASAP. His .310 career-batting average in the minor leagues will bring even more hitting to an already strong lineup and there is a big hole in center field that he is going to get the opportunity to fill. But it is, without question, worth considering that delaying Senzel’s call-up.
Each regular season consists of 187 days and each day spent on the active roster or disabled list earns a player one day of service time. A player is deemed to have reached “one year” of major league service upon accruing 172 days in a given year. So, if the Cincinnati Reds sacrifice the first 15 or so game without Senzel on the roster, they’ll gain an additional 162 games of his service before he becomes a free agent.
That extra year is something the Reds might find themselves needing before too long. Scooter Gennett is in his final year of arbitration this season, so unless the Reds sign him to an extension, he will be a free agent at the end of this coming season.
The Reds have lost two of their other middle-infield prospects this offseason in trades to gain much-needed starting pitching. So, if Gennett does go and with Taylor Trammell coming up the ranks quickly as an outfielder; moving Nick Senzel back to second base is probably the most likely decision.
It would be different if there weren’t other players who could play center field for those first games. But, I think having Scott Schebler or Yasiel Puig play at center field for a few weeks will end up being worth it to keep that extra year of team control. Schebler has already clocked some time in center and he has the speed to do a decent job there until Senzel makes his debut.
Personally, I don’t like the service time or Super 2 rules, as it incentivizes teams, who may not yet be ready to compete right away, to keep their emerging stars down on the farm. But, as long as it is a part of the collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball, it’s something teams are going to be considering when they call up their prospect players.
The Cincinnati Reds may surprise us yet again, but I think it’s very unlikely that we’ll see Nick Senzel in the outfield on Opening Day. Being able to hold on to a player as diverse and talented as Senzel for an additional year is something that should not be passed up, especially by a smaller market franchise like the Reds.