I’m convinced that having Nick Senzel on the field every day gives the Cincinnati Reds their best chance to win. It sounds as though David Bell agrees. The problem is, Senzel hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy over his first two big league seasons. The Reds outfield depth will be helpful in the event Senzel has to miss time due to injury in 2021.
There’s been rumblings from the fanbase, myself included, that with the absence of an established shortstop, the Reds should move Nick Senzel back to the infield dirt for the 2021 season. This is not a bad idea and it would allow Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, Nick Castellanos, and Jesse Winker to be part of the everyday lineup.
Moving Nick Senzel to the infield hurts the Reds outfield depth.
Shifting Eugenio Suárez back to his original position at shortstop and moving Mike Moustakas to third base would allow for Senzel to takeover at second base. Or, Bell could shift Suárez to shortstop, leave Moose at second base, and move Senzel to the hot corner; a position he played during college and his time in the minors.
Granted, making such a move is surefire way to get the best eight players into the Cincinnati Reds lineup. Would it be a blow to the overall team defense? Perhaps, but given that Cincinnati was the worst hitting team in baseball last season, most folks would probably sacrifice defense for offense this season.
The problem with this idea is one that David Bell outlined yesterday. Moving Senzel to the infield weakens the team’s depth on the outfield grass. Bell had this to say, via MLB.com, when asked about moving the former first-round pick to the infield:
"“The way Nick Senzel looks in the outfield, if we ever did consider moving him into the infield, we’d be losing a lot in the outfield. He’s really turned himself into a very skilled outfielder to go along with really elite speed and athleticism. There’s a lot to consider.”"
There’s a lot of truth in that statement. While Shogo Akiyama would be a solid defender in center field, Senzel is able to cover more ground with his elite speed. Moving Akiyama to center field permanently would also require Cincinnati to utilize Jesse Winker as the team’s primary left fielder. Winker’s bat is solid, but his defense has always been below-average.
The Reds outfield could absorb an injury to Nick Senzel.
Another big factor in the decision to keep Nick Senzel in the outfield has to be his injury history. While I’ll stop short of calling the 25-year-old injury-prone, his ability to stay healthy has been called into question even before he made his major league debut in 2019.
Were Senzel to miss any time due to injury in 2021, the depth in the team’s outfield is much greater than that of the infield, meaning the Reds could absorb the loss easier if the former Tennessee Volunteer were the regular centerfielder.
The debate is sure to rage on all spring, but once Bell has set the Opening Day lineup and the 2021 baseball season begins, so long as Nick Senzel is healthy, it won’t matter where the former top prospect lines up on the field.