The Cincinnati Reds will enter the 2022 season with more questions than answers. The front office has prioritized cost-cutting while trying to remain competitive. That's bold strategy that makes Reds Country uneasy.
Gone are Wade Miley, Tucker Barnhart, Michael Lorenzen, and likely Nick Castellanos. There's also rumors of Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Tyler Mahle being shopped this offseason. Cincinnati's 2022 roster will look far different than the one that won 83 games last season.
Still, there are several bright spots heading into next season. Joey Votto is coming off his best season since 2017, Jonathan India just won the NL Rookie of the Year, and the Reds have some very talented players ready to make the leap from the minor leagues to The Show.
But, there are some players who've been in the bigs for a few years and have yet to reach their potential. There is typically a make-or-break season for such individuals, and Cincinnati has at least three such players who will enter the 2022 season with the opportunity to cement their spot on the Reds roster moving forward or become a casualty during or after the season.
1. Reds OF Nick Senzel enters 2022 with a lot to prove.
I really don't know what to expect from Nick Senzel in 2022 other than perhaps a trip to the injured list. Not to beat a dead horse, but Senzel's inability to stay on the field has been the single greatest threat to the former first-round pick being a successful major leaguer or becoming another player who'll be a career bench player.
Senzel's ability is not in question. But in three major league seasons, the former University of Tennessee star has appeared in just 163 games. While the abbreviated 2020 season certainly factors into that number, Senzel played in just 23 of the 60 games that season.
When Senzel is on the field, he can be a difference maker. He is the prototypical five-tool player who has above-average speed, can hit for average and power, and plays solid defense. The biggest problem facing Senzel is that he's not a centerfielder.
Can he play the position? Yes. Can his body hold up to the rigors of being the Cincinnati Reds everyday centerfielder? I think the answer is no. Admit it. Every time the converted third baseman dives for a fly ball hit into the left-center field gap, you cringe and wonder if he injured himself on the play.
If the Cincinnati Reds want to see Nick Senzel succeed at the major league level, he needs to return to his natural position; third base. Unfortunately, Cincinnati has $27M tied up in two aging veterans (Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suárez) who are likely to be battling it out in spring training for the right to man the hot corner in 2022.
Next season will be make or break for Senzel. If the 26-year-old can stay healthy, I believe we'll see the promise that he showed as a rookie before succumbing to a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last month-plus of the 2019 season. If Senzel plays less than 100 games in 2022, I believe we'll have seen the last of the former No. 2 overall pick in the Queen City.