With Nick Senzel set to play a major role in the Cincinnati Reds future plans, should the team consider transitioning him back to the infield in 2020?
The 2019 season found fans excited for an experimental new beginning in center field. After Scott Schebler failed to live up to the lofty expectations he’d set after a strong spring training, Nick Senzel took over in center field for the Cincinnati Reds in May of last year. While Senzel was a serviceable centerfielder in 2019, one has to ask if he’d be better suited back on the dirt.
For years, Reds Country was spoiled with the defensive highlights and excitement provided by former centerfielder Billy Hamilton, who wowed fans with his range and speed while running down fly balls. Last season, the Reds used Senzel, a converted infielder with good speed and strong defensive skills, to fill the void and add offensive production to the position.
After an early season injury and eight games in the minor leagues, Senzel was called up to assume the role of the everyday centerfielder for the 2019 season. This change required many adjustments and adaptations on Senzel’s behalf, as center field is a long way from playing second or third base.
Senzel maintained a strong showing defensively in center field, posting a fielding percentage of .978, which, for a first-year player at the position, is pretty solid. A newer metric for rating a player’s defensive performance, defensive runs saved, saw Senzel score a -1 DRS. Again, given his transition to a new position, that number is not bad at all.
By comparison, Jesse Winker, who subbed in center field on occasion had -3 DRS, while the best defensive outfielder the Reds had in center field was Phillip Ervin. Ervin had 3 DRS and a .980 fielding percentage when manning center field.
When looking at second base, the Reds rotated many different players through the position last season. Freddy Galvis, José Peraza, Josh VanMeter, Derick Dietrich and Scooter Gennett all played significant time at second base in 2019.
However, fans are ready to see a more potent offensive production from the position, and perhaps moving Senzel to second base is the answer. In doing so, the Reds would have to acquire a centerfielder who can play solid defense and offer a solid bat.
Considering the lack of talent available in free agency, the Cincinnati Reds would be forced to empty the cupboard of young talent to get a top-flight centerfielder through trade. Trading for the likes of Ender Inciarte or Starling Marte would offer the Reds an offensive upgrade, but not cost an arm and a leg in terms of prospects.
Second base offers a stronger batch of candidates through free agency. By maintaining Nick Senzel’s current role in center field, the Reds could sign a free agent second baseman who can add to that offensive production that is sorely needed. A player like Mike Moustakas, Brian Dozier and Brock Holt represent the best second basemen available on the market.
Regardless of the route the Reds determine best fits the team going forward, fans should be excited for Senzel’s future. His unique skill set allow Senzel to fulfill multiple roles for this team both defensively and offensively. Senzel’s continued growth will be a cornerstone of this team for years to come, be it in center field or second base.