Until Nick Senzel breaks camp with the Cincinnati Reds or is sent to Triple-A, get ready for consistent over-analysis. Senzel played well yesterday.
Nick Senzel played a solid all-around game against the Chicago White Sox during a spring game on Wednesday. Senzel went 3-for-3 with an RBI. Get used to the constant attention poured out onto the 22-year-old, because until Senzel breaks camp with the Cincinnati Reds or is sent to Triple-A Louisville to begin the season, the over-analysis will continue.
First, yes, Nick Senzel showcased his bat yesterday. Senzel had an RBI double, two singles, and a run scored before exiting the game following the sixth inning. Senzel was replaced by non-roster invitee Mason Williams who played in 51 games for the Cincinnati Reds last season.
Senzel also showed off some solid defense during the game as well, making a nice running grab on the warning track during the bottom of the fourth inning. A first pitch fastball to Eloy Jimenez was lifted high and deep to right center field and Senzel tracked it down nicely, making a basket catch near the wall for the first out of the inning.
Now, let’s not go nuts. Senzel made a nice catch, but Reds fans have seen Billy Hamilton make catches like that look routine. Heck, the majority of starting center fielders in the game could’ve made that catch, and I dare say that Phillip Ervin or Scott Schebler would’ve made that catch. So why are we so enamored with every play Nick Senzel makes?
It’s because Nick Senzel’s only hope of making the Opening Day roster hinges on his ability to make the transition from infield prospect to starting center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds. If Senzel cannot make the transition, there’s no way he breaks camp with the Reds as part of the 25-man roster and thus will start the season in Triple-A.
To be fair, if it weren’t for the ridiculous “service time” rule, Senzel would break camp with the team regardless of his transition to a new position. The Reds have the ability to gain an extra year of team control if Senzel is not on the big league roster for 172 days.
Now, to be fair to the Cincinnati Reds, had Senzel been healthy last season, he’d likely have received a September call-up and we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. The idea of keeping a player in minors to gain an additional year of team control is not a new, as the Chicago Cubs did it with Kris Bryant and the Toronto Blue Jays are likely to do it with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
So, strap in Reds fans, because for the next month every at-bat Nick Senzel has and every play he does or doesn’t make in the outfield will be scrutinized. If he has a great game, we’ll hear how he’s a lock to make the team, but if he has a bad game, we’ll hear how the needs more seasoning at the minor league level.
Personally, I think the decision has already been made one way or another and Nick Senzel’s standing with the team, and barring an injury or a 1-for-16 slump, the Cincinnati Reds have a good idea of what they’ll do with Senzel before Opening Day.