Despite an offseason of injuries, trade rumors and the acquisition of two new outfielders, Nick Senzel remains, far and away, the Cincinnati Reds best option to play center field.
It had to be a trying offseason for Cincinnati Reds centerfielder Nick Senzel. After having his 2019 rookie season end prematurely due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder and having to undergo surgery to have it repaired, his winter of discontent was only beginning.
Fast forward to January 6th and the Reds opened the new year by announcing the free agent signing of five-time Japanese All-Star Shogo Akiyama. As you guessed it, Akiyama played center field for the Seibu Lions in the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
After inking a three year deal for $21M, it’s obvious the Reds envision Akiyama being an everyday presence in the lineup. However, there have been questions raised about Akiyama’s ability defensively to play center field at the major league level.
As if that wasn’t enough, there were the persistent rumors of the Reds wanting to upgrade the shortstop position. Constantly the names of Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager were bandied about as potential trade targets. Rest assured, if a deal of this magnitude ever came to fruition, Nick Senzel would have been top of mind for any other front office executives.
Despite everything, it’s March. Spring training games are being played and Nick Senzel is still a member of the organization. For the Reds to enjoy sustained long-term success, Senzel along with third baseman Eugenio Suárez are the key pieces to bringing an era of winning baseball back to the Queen City.
The Cincinnati Reds organization has done everything possible to try and find a fit for Senzel at the major league level. Since being selected second overall in the 2016 MLB Draft, Senzel has spent time in the minors playing third and second base as well as shortstop. To complicate matters further, following the 2018 minor league season, Senzel was told to add the position of centerfielder to his résumé.
What has become obvious is that the Reds don’t see Senzel, or anyone else on the roster, as being a viable everyday option at shortstop besides Freddy Galvis. In addition to Suárez being entrenched as the third baseman through 2024, the Reds signed Mike Moustakas as a free agent to play second base through 2023. There’s simply no where for Senzel to play except in center field.
It’s a compliment to the 24-year-old Tennessee Volunteer alum to never utter a word of frustration and willingly take on any new challenge thrown his way. As the Reds enter the 2020 campaign the stakes are much higher. Following an offseason free agent spending spree unlike any in the club’s history, the Reds have suddenly been transformed from the hunter to the hunted in the National League Central.
If the Reds are to make their first postseason appearance since 2013, a breakout year from Senzel is a near necessity. The right-handed hitting slugger finished his 2019 rookie season with a slash line of .256/.315/.427 in 375 at-bats. Add in 12 homers with 15 stolen bases and there’s a lot to be excited about as he enters his sophomore year.
Despite those respectable rookie numbers, Nick Senzel’s season could have even been better. Following a July in which he slashed .333/.379/.470, former hitting coach Turner Ward found it to be in Senzel’s best interest to completely change his swing and batting stance. The results proved to be a disaster. Senzel slashed just .184/.238/.296 in August and by early September, his once promising rookie campaign ended on a sour note with his shoulder injury.
This offseason Senzel has vowed to return to the stance and swing that brought him to the majors and we can only hope new Reds hitting coach Alan Zinter allows Senzel the opportunity to return to what is comfortable. A relaxed and confident Senzel will do wonders for the Reds.
Opening Day is just a little more than four weeks away. As the Cincinnati Reds begin their pursuit of unseating the St. Louis Cardinals atop the division standings, an outfield featuring Akiyama in left, Senzel in center and Nick Castellanos in right is the recipe for success.