Nick Senzel should be the Cincinnati Reds leadoff hitter, but there’s a catch

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 21: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds bats. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 21: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds bats. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds, for the majority of the 2021 season, have relied on Jesse Winker to be the team’s leadoff hitter. It’s not a bad strategy at all, but if David Bell wants to make the most of his best offensive weapon, Nick Senzel should be the Reds leadoff batter. However, it should only come when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound.

Senzel was an elite prospect after the University of Tennessee alum was drafted by the Reds in 2016. Though injuries and a change in position have slowed Senzel’s development, during the early part of the 2021 season, it appears as though the former first-round pick is finally starting to reap the benefits of the club’s patience.

Reds outfielder Nick Senzel crushes left-handed starters.

The only player on the Cincinnati roster that even makes sense to leadoff ahead of Jesse Winker is Nick Senzel. Senzel is very selective at the dish and currently leads the team in walks (12). That ability to get on base and his above-average speed are what make Senzel and intriguing option to be the Reds’ leadoff hitter.

There are others who have a higher on-base percentage (Tyler Stephenson, Tucker Barnhart, Alex Blandino, Tyler Naquin, and Nick Castellanos), but none of them strike me as a leadoff batter. We have seen Naquin take the top spot in the batting order one occasion,  but his ability to drive in runners seems better suited for further down in the lineup.

Alongside his 12 base on balls, Nick Senzel also only has 12 strikeouts on the season. No one on the Cincinnati roster comes close to that ratio. Even Joey Votto has 11 walks to 25 punch outs on the season. Unlike a great deal of players on the Reds roster, it’s not feast or famine with Senzel; he puts the ball in play.

There are some flaws in Nick Senzel’s game.

Nick Senzel is not a world-beater by any means. The 26-year-old has flaws in his game. While we love to tout Senzel’s speed, he leads the team in times caught stealing (4) and he doesn’t fair as well versus right-handed pitching.

Against right-hander’s, Senzel is slashing .213/.333/.295. However, when a left-hander is on the bump, the right-handed hitting Senzel is slashing .375/.389/.438 with a tOPS of 148. Put that up against Senzel’s 88 tOPS versus right-handed hurlers, and we see that the former No. 2 overall pick is good choice to leadoff, but only against left-handed starters.

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Nick Senzel is very patient hitter, and when David Bell is looking to load the lineup with right-handed bats versus a left-handed starter, Cincinnati’s centerfielder should be hitting atop the batting order. Doing so will put speed on the base paths ahead of Winker and enable the Reds to rack up more runs, especially early in games.