3 center field replacements if Nick Senzel is not ready for Reds Opening Day

Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl (29).
Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl (29). / The Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODAY
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After suffering a broken toe near the end of the 2022 season, it's questionable as to whether or not Nick Senzel will be part of the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day lineup.

According to Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds manager David Bell said that Senzel still isn't running 100% yet. Cincinnati's skipper believes it'll be a close call in terms of Senzel's availablity for Opening Day on March 30th against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new for Senzel. His injury-riddled past has seen the former first-round pick end three of his first four seasons on the IL. But, if Senzel is unable to go on Opening Day, who will start in the Reds outfield?

1. Stuart Fairchild could replace Nick Senzel in the Reds Opening Day lineup.

If the Pittsburgh Pirates send veteran left-hander Rich Hill to the mound on Opening Day, David Bell will probably field a very right-handed heavy lineup. If Nick Senzel begins the 2023 season, one option to replace him in center field would be Stuart Fairchild.

Fairchild demonstrated several nice attributes during his end-of-the-season audition that saw him maintain a spot on the Reds 40-man roster over the offseason. Fairchild had been part of Cincinnati's organization previously, but was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2020.

Fairchild has the speed to play up the middle and enough arm strength to field the position. When it comes to the hitting portion of his game, that's where fans saw a lot to like from Fairchild in 2022. The former second-round pick slashed .279/.374/.523 in 38 games with the Reds last season.

There are a lot of outfielders in camp and they're all battling for the same spot. Fairchild's speed and versatility help to set him apart, but he'll need a strong showing in Cactus League play in order to break camp with the big league squad.

2. TJ Friedl could replace Nick Senzel in the Reds Opening Day lineup.

David Bell must find a way to get TJ Friedl's bat into the Cincinnati Reds lineup on a consistent basis and Nick Senzel's absence may be the perfect way to do so. After a tuneup in Triple-A last season, Friedl returned to the Reds lineup and was one of the team's best hitters over the second-half of the 2022 season.

Friedl's rookie year did not get off to a great start. Friedl was called up to the bigs shortly after the season began, but he did not produce. During his first stint, Friedl slashed just .200/.250/.289 and was sent back to Triple-A Louisville.

But Friedl received a second chance in mid-August and made the most of his opportunity. The left-handed hitting outfielder was outstanding over the final two months of the season. Friedl hit .267/.354/.533 with 17 of his 36 hits going for extra bases.

More than just his second-half surge, Friedl put up very good numbers against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. In fact, Friedl had reverse-splits with an OPS of 1.212 against southpaws and a .716 OPS versus right-hande hurlers.

TJ Friedl will work his way into the lineup, but if Nick Senzel is slowed by injury to begin the season, the starting center field job could belong to the 27-year-old from Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

3. Will Benson could replace Nick Senzel in the Reds Opening Day lineup.

No, don't expect to see Michael Siani on the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster. One of the team's top outfield prospects, Siani could still use some more seasoning down on the farm before coming back to the big leagues in 2023.

But Will Benson, one of the Reds offseason additions, could find time in center field during the 2023 season. Benson was traded from the Cleveland Guardians in exchange for outfield prospect Justin Boyd whom Cincinnati selected with the 73rd pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.

Benson has massive power and could certainly add some thump to what is a lineup that is certainly lacking in that department. Outside of free agent signee Wil Myers, one could argue that there are no other power-bats in the Cincinnati lineup.

Benson, however, was launching balls out of the stadium left and right for Cleveland's Triple-A affiliate last season. In 89 games with the Columbus Clippers, Benson slugged .522 and mashed 17 round trippers.

Will Benson has the versatility to play all three outfield spots, but don't discount the 24-year-old's ability to play up the middle. Though Benson is 6-foot-5, 230-pounds, he still has enough speed and more than enough arm strength to play center field.

This could be Nick Senzel's final season in a Cincinnati Reds uniform if the University of Tennessee alum is unable to find his rhythm early and often in 2023. Senzel has made some adjustments to his batting stance and is hopeful that he's full-go on March 30th. But, if not, the Reds have some contingency plans in place.

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