Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell released his lineup for Friday's series opener against the Chicago Cubs.
For the second time in three days, Nick Senzel is drawing a start in left field. In addition, Kevin Newman is starting at third base, Matt McLain is back at shortstop, and Jose Barrero is occupying center field.
It should be noted that the Reds are facing left-hander Justin Steele, and Bell has an all right-handed-hitting lineup. But is this a hint at how the Reds will line up defensively once Elly De La Cruz makes his major league debut?
This latest tweak to the Reds lineup hints at the plans for Elly De La Cruz.
Despite spending his entire college career at third base and almost all of his minor league games on the infield dirt, Nick Senzel has long been viewed as the Cincinnati Reds starting centerfielder.
It was a move the Reds made prior to Senzel's rookie season in 2019 when the University of Tennessee alum replaced longtime centerfielder Billy Hamilton. The transition never really stuck, and try as he might, Senzel never transformed into a centerfielder.
However, Senzel has finally found a home at third base this season. While seeing time at all three outfield spots as well as second base, the majority of Senzel's starts have come at the hot corner. However, his time there may be short-lived.
Elly De La Cruz, one of the best prospects in all of baseball, will be making his major league debut very soon. Based on the production fans have seen from the 21-year-old at Triple-A this season, there's little left for De La Cruz to prove in the minors.
In order to get Elly De La Cruz's bat into the lineup while at the same time not take playing time away from the resurgent Nick Senzel, it would appear that the Reds may look to former first-round pick as their left fielder.
If that is indeed the plan, an infield of De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Jonathan India, and Spencer Steer could be complemented by an outfield of Senzel, TJ Friedl, and Jake Fraley. Throw in Tyler Stephenson behind the plate, and that's not a bad looking lineup.
While it's incredibly logical to get De La Cruz to the major leagues sooner rather than later, it's imperative that the Cincinnati Reds don't take playing time away from Senzel. Furthermore, it would be wise to still give Senzel a start or two at third base every week.
The Reds can't afford to put Elly De La Cruz's ascension to the major leagues on hold based upon Nick Senzel's 2023 performance. But it would be a shame to squelch Senzel's playing time now that he's finally beginning to find success in the majors.
Putting De La Cruz at third base and Senzel in left field allows both players to get everyday at-bats and contribute to the team's success in the future. Win-win.