Nick Senzel is proving exactly why the Reds never trusted him at third base

Advanced defensive metrics suggest the Reds were right to avoid playing Nick Senzel at third base

Washington Nationals infielder Nick Senzel
Washington Nationals infielder Nick Senzel / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

It's easy to look back on Nick Senzel's development and blame the Cincinnati Reds for his failures. Once touted as an elite hitter with the defensive chops to play third base in the majors, the Reds struggled to provide consistency on the defensive side during Senzel's first few years in the majors.

A third baseman in college, Senzel spent time playing both the hot corner and second base during his time in the minors. But when the Reds called him up in 2019, they had Eugenio Suarez holding down third base and felt comfortable with their middle infield combination, so Senzel got shifted to center field.

Senzel was always an athletic guy but he clearly didn't have the skill set or experience to play center in the majors. He struggled at the plate, which many attributed to the change in position and the Reds using him as a utility man between those three spots in the field.

The Reds were right to move on from Nick Senzel

Fast forward to this most recent offseason and Senzel's time with the Reds came to an unceremonious close. Nick Krall chose to non-tender Senzel rather than offer him a contract in his second year of arbitration. Senzel wound up signing a deal with the Nationals and is projected to be a free agent after the 2025 season.

In his 58 games with Washington, Senzel has been used exclusively as a third baseman, and his performance there is lending credence to the Reds for moving him off the position. Both FanGraphs' Defensive Runs Saved and Statcast's Outs Above Average view him as one of the worst defenders at the position this year.

Among third basemen with at least 100 innings, Senzel's -7 DRS is worst in the league, and his -4 OAA puts him at 29th out of 33 candidates. That the two different metrics agree on Senzel being a poor defender says a lot about his contributions there.

Nick Senzel rarely got opportunities at third base while with the Reds

Senzel has been an okay hitter this year, slashing .220/.322/.387 with seven homers and solid plate discipline. However, he's been good for just 0.4 fWAR, and that's in large part due to his defensive deficiencies.

Senzel is in a tough spot, where he's not quite good enough at the plate to warrant consistent time as a designated hitter, and he also doesn't provide value on the defensive side. It's possible that he'd be a passable second baseman, but unless the bat improves, he may not get too many more opportunities to prove himself.

It's been a tough road for the former Reds No. 1 prospect, but sometimes you just have to chalk up your losses and move on. It's hard to blame Krall and the Reds for doing so with Senzel.

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