Reds GM sounds confident that Nick Senzel will be back in center field

CINCINNATI, OHIO - MAY 01: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds dives to make a catch. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - MAY 01: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds dives to make a catch. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Nick Senzel‘s 2021 season ended on May 17th. The former No. 2 overall returned to the minor league field for a rehab assignment, but never returned to the Cincinnati Reds after undergoing knee surgery.

Senzel’s future with the club looked cloudy at best after it was announced that the team was optioning the University of Tennessee alum to Triple-A Louisville following his rehab assignment, a designation they eventually withdrew after it came to light that Senzel was playing through pain and not 100% healthy.

This season marks the third time in three seasons that Senzel has missed significant time due to injury. An ankle injury to begin his rookie campaign and a shoulder injury in August limited Senzel to just 104 games in 2019.

Last season, the former first-round pick missed about a month with an illness and returned just before the playoffs began. This season, Senzel exited the first game of the season, but returned to complete the weekend series, only to be shelved with a knee injury that would require surgery and eventually claim his season. Senzel played in just 36 games during the 2021 season.

The Reds GM expects Nick Senzel to compete for a spot in the outfield.

Cincinnati Reds General Manager Nick Krall said today via that he expects Nick Senzel to come into spring training and compete for a spot. Given the abundance of infielders on the team and the scarcity of a quality centerfielder, it makes the most sense for Senzel to return to the outfield.

Senzel, who is an infielder by trade, made the switch to center field prior to the 2019 season and played there exclusively during both his rookie season and the abbreviated 2020 season. However, we actually saw Senzel gather a few starts on the infield dirt this season, seeing time at both second and third base.

However, with likely NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India fixed at the keystone, and $27M-worth of payroll tied up in Eugenio Suárez and Mike Moustakas to jockey for position at third base, Nick Senzel’s best opportunity is to return to center field.

Shogo Akiyama has done nothing to take the job away from Senzel, and at best would be a spot starter versus right-handed pitching. TJ Friedl played admirably during his first foray into the majors, but the rookie is much more of a rotational outfielder than an everyday starter.

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The only player on the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster who would supplant a healthy Nick Senzel in center field is Tyler Naquin. That said, if Nick Castellanos leaves Cincinnati for another team this winter, the Reds may start the trio of Naquin (RF), Senzel (CF), and Jesse Winker (LF) on the outfield grass to begin the 2022 season.