Cincinnati Reds: Nick Senzel is still the future despite offseason additions
By Drew Koch
Despite the trade rumors and offseason additions, Cincinnati Reds centerfielder Nick Senzel remains an important part of the club’s future.
Nick Senzel is still rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. But, according to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Senzel is still on track to return to the everyday lineup by Opening Day. While his name was tossed about in trade rumors this offseason, Nick Senzel remains one of the most important players on the Cincinnati Reds going forward.
There are several reasons why Nick Senzel’s name kept coming up in trade rumors this winter. Senzel is a former first-round pick (No. 2 overall), consensus Top 10 prospect before his major league debut last season, and is a skilled fielder and hitter.
Senzel’s rookie season did not go as planned. The former infielder began his big league career in center field, having played zero games there as a professional. However, the 24-year-old made a nice transition, and while there were a few hiccups, Senzel handled the position quite well. One would expect even better results in the filed this coming season.
At the dish, Senzel showed flashes of that player that fans expected, but the rookie seemed to lack consistency. During his first year in the bigs, Senzel slashed .265/.315/.427 with 12 home runs, 42 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 104 games.
There’s another former first-round pick who drew a lot of hype and put up similar numbers during his rookie season. In 2008, Jay Bruce slashed .254/.314/.453 with 21 homers and 52 RBIs in 108 games. During his career with the Reds, Bruce was a three-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger and twice was a Top 10 vote-getter for the NL MVP.
The Cincinnati Reds made a lot of additions to their roster this winter. Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama and Mike Moustakas all figure to fill prominent roles for the Reds in 2020. Might these free agent pickups eat into some of Senzel’s playing time? Perhaps, but that’s okay.
While so many fans have become obsessed with setting the lineup and predicting who plays where on the diamond, managers and coaches are much more focused on matchups. Which hitters matchup well against the opposing pitcher? Fans saw that countless times last season with David Bell at the helm. Expect a similar style this coming season.
Some of the most successful teams over the past few seasons have played the matchups rather than sticking to a set lineup. The Chicago Cubs deployed in left field, right field, first and third base last season. Bryant is a three-time All-Star and former MVP, yet he plays all over the field. I’d look for Bell to take a similar approach with Senzel in order to put the best possible lineup on the field.
If that means Senzel would give Eugenio Suárez a day off at third base, so be it. Mike Moustakas needs a day of rest, no problem, Senzel can cover second base. Shogo Akiyama could slide over to left field and Bell could deploy Senzel in center field. There’s a lot of ways that the Reds can mix and match last year’s rookie in order to get his bat in the lineup.
Bobby Nightengale also spoke with Senzel about the trade rumors this past season, and the former Tennessee Volunteer had some very mature comments on the situation. Here’s a quote from Senzel via the Cincinnati Enquirer:
"“This offseason was probably more legitimate than any other offseason, I’d say. I’m happy to be here. I want to be here for my whole career. I want to play in Cincinnati for these fans and my teammates. Any time those talks come up or anything, there is literally nothing I can do about it. I have no control over it. The less I worry about it, the better.”"
The year that Jay Bruce made his major league debut, the Reds roster was littered with veterans. David Ross, Adam Dunn, Ryan Freel, David Weathers, Aaron Harang and Ken Griffey Jr. The following season, Bruce ascended up the ladder a bit and by 2010, he was the second-best player on the team behind NL MVP Joey Votto.
Fans need to be a little patient with Nick Senzel. Nowadays, rookies come in with huge expectations and are given labels much sooner than they deserve. Some are dubbed the next big thing, while others are deemed to be busts having fewer than 500 at-bats.
Senzel’s first hurdle that he needs to overcome is the rash of injuries he’s incurred over the past two years. If Senzel can prove that he can stay healthy, I believe that he’s got an incredibly bright future in from of him.