Cincinnati Reds: Despite struggles, Nick Senzel needs at-bats

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 19: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds watches the ball . (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 19: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds watches the ball . (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Reds centerfielder Nick Senzel came up short twice during last night’s loss.

Nick Senzel just can’t seem to catch a break. The former No. 2 overall pick of the Cincinnati Reds was sidelined for a month and has been back in the lineup, albeit inconsistency since September 14th. Senzel has all the talent necessary to be an All-Star at the big league level, but his inability to stay on the field has weakened his case to be in the starting lineup.

In his brief career, Senzel has dealt with innumerable injuries, maladies and other odd circumstances that have kept him off the field. From bouts with vertigo, to getting hit in the eye by a foul ball, spraining his ankle, requiring surgery to repair an injured shoulder or the latest undisclosed injury that kept him shelved for a month, Senzel has been dealt a wicked hand.

However, despite all the odds stacked against him, including being moved from the infield dirt to center field, Nick Senzel just keeps coming. If nothing else, you have to admire the young man’s grit and determination. He wants to be out there with his teammates. If you have any doubts about Senzel’s character, take a listen to Episode 33 of The Jim Day Podcast.

During the 10 games in August in which Senzel took the field, the 25-year-old was one of the better hitters in the Reds lineup. Hitting .258/.351/.452 with three doubles, a home run and five RBIs, Senzel was starting to show glimpses of his potential. And then, we all know what happened, right?

As the Cincinnati Reds walked off the field following an 8-1 trashing of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Senzel was removed from the  celebration line and was visibly upset. While nothing has been confirmed, it was reported that a member of the team tested positive for COVID-19. Senzel was placed on the injured list and the Reds were away from the field for four straight days.

Now back, David Bell has chosen to take it slow with his young centerfielder, and given the outfield depth on this year’s team, that’s probably not the worst decision. Unlike most years, a minor league rehab assignment is not possible in 2020, so Senzel had to rely on getting back into game shape via the Reds alternate training site in Mason, Ohio.

Nick Senzel has appeared in five of a possible nine games, and has only started three times. Again, lack of being in “game shape” and lefty-righty matchups are likely the biggest reasons for Senzel’s absence, but the second-year player is just 1-for-14 since his return.

While a .071 batting average is less than desirable, let’s not forget that David Bell stuck with the likes of Jesse Winker and Shogo Akiyama through their early-season struggles. Winker, though he’s cooled off lately, was one of the best hitters in baseball for a stretch and Akiyama is hitting .333/.520/.333 in his last seven games.

While a lot of Cincinnati Reds fans are likely to call for Nick Senzel to ride the pine for the remaining four games, I’m advocating for the exact opposite. Senzel needs more at-bats against big league pitching if this team wants to make some noise in the postseason.

Yes, we all love the power that Aristides Aquino can bring to a game, but The Punisher is 6-for-32 in his last 15 games with 12 strikeouts. Brian Goodwin’s last 15 at-bats have yielded just one hit. He’s been no better than Senzel of late. And, if Tyler Stephenson, who we all love, is going to draw a start as the team’s DH, then Senzel sure as heck needs to be in the lineup.

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A lot remains to be seen from Nick Senzel in terms of his ability to stay healthy, but there’s no questioning his talent. If the Cincinnati Reds want to make a deep run in October, they’re going to need Senzel on the field. It’s time for David Bell to put his best lineup out there, and Senzel is among the best players on this team.