Reds: Statistics suggest that Nick Senzel is on the cusp of breaking out

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 10: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds gets ready in the batters box. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 10: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds gets ready in the batters box. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Nick Senzel went 2-for-4 last night versus the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cincinnati Reds centerfielder looks like he’s ready to break out, and the statistics bear that out. If Senzel reaches his full potential, Cincinnati may finally reap the benefits of selecting the 25-year-old with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.

Baseball has always been a results-based business. Potential can only take you so far. At some point, that potential has to turn into production or else you’ll find yourself out of job. It looks as though Senzel is finally starting to turn that potential into production.

All of Nick Senzel’s stats are trending in the right direction for the Reds.

Nick Senzel was selected in the first-round of the 2016 MLB Draft as a third baseman out of the University of Tennessee. However, Senzel’s route to the majors was derailed by injury and changing positions.

With Eugenio Suarez, and now Mike Moustakas, taking up residence at the hot corner, Senzel would have to learn a new position (center field) in order to find his way onto the roster. Senzel made his big league debut in May of 2019, but a shoulder injury cut his rookie season short. In 2020, a trip to the injured list with an undisclosed illness robbed Senzel of half the season.

Now in his third year, Senzel has been trying to establish himself as the team’s everyday centerfielder. An early-season injury to Shogo Akiyama seemed to open the door, but the hot start from Tyler Naquin has David Bell platooning Senzel with the former Cleveland Indians’ outfielder.

Last season was not a good one for Senzel. The former first-rounder appeared in just 23 of a possible 60 games and saw only 78 plate appearances. Already, in less than month, Senzel has 58 plate appearances and has seen his numbers going in a much more positive direction.

The 25-year-old’s walk-rate may be the most interesting statistic to follow so far this season. After posting a 7.2% walk-rate in his rookie season and taking a free pass 7.7% of the time in limited action last season, Senzel’s walk-rate is sitting at 10.3%. That’s better than Jesse Winker and Joey Votto; two hitters who are known for their keen understanding of the strike zone.

Senzel’s strikeout-rate has also dipped from 19.2% last season to 15.5% this season. During his rookie season, Senzel struck out nearly once in every four at-bats according to FanGraphs. Only Mike Moustakas has a better strikeout-rate than Nick Senzel so far this season.

Senzel’s on-base percentage has also seen an uptick. After posting a .315 OBP in 2019, Senzel reached base just 24.7% of the time in 2020. This season, however, the former No. 2 overall pick’s on-base percentage is similar to what we saw during his rookie campaign.

The Reds need Nick Senzel to continue to produce.

The Cincinnati Reds don’t need Nick Senzel to be great; not yet anyway. The Reds just need Senzel to be available. Injuries took their toll on Senzel’s playing time over the past two seasons, but we’ve seen the impact that the Tennessee alum can have on the team. No one possesses more speed in the lineup, and outside of Michael Lorenzen, there’s not a better pure athlete on the team.

Perhaps platooning Senzel with Naquin, and eventually Akiyama will do the 25-year-old some good. We saw the Reds take the same approach with Jesse Winker, who’s also had his fair share of injuries over the years. Now, Winker is hitting atop the Cincinnati batting order and may be in competition for the National League batting title this season.

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Senzel seems to be ready to break out at any second, and go on a tear. While we’ve all heard that before, he appears to be in different state of mind this season. While a steady presence should be enough for this team, if Nick Senzel were able to reach his potential this season, the Cincinnati Reds offense may become one of the most feared lineups in the NL.