After a flurry of trades over the last two days, it's anyone's guess as to what the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster is going to look like. One question that's been lingering since Eugenio Suárez and Jesse Winker were traded to the Seattle Mariners is who will be the Reds' starting third baseman on Opening Day?
Allow me to throw a name out - Nick Senzel. The former first-round pick has been dogged by injuries throughout his career, but perhaps a permanent move to the infield will lessen the wear and tear on Senzel's body, therefore allowing him to be part of the Reds everyday lineup.
Should the Reds insert Nick Senzel as the team's starting third baseman?
Nick Senzel was selected with the second-overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. The University of Tennessee product drew comparisons to Alex Bregman initially, but several fluke and odd injuries have hindered Senzel's progress over the years.
Prior to the 2019, after spending his entire career on the infield dirt, the Reds made the decision to switch Senzel to the outfield grass. After non-tendering Billy Hamliton in the offseason, Cincinnati had little to no options in center field.
Eventually, after a phony spring training position battle, Scott Schebler was handed the reigns in center field on Opening Day. After a dreadful start to the season, the Reds quickly realized that i needed Senzel's bat in the lineup. Senzel made his big league debut in early-May and had a very good rookie campaign until a shoulder injury stopped him in his tracks and ended his season prematurely.
In 2020, Senzel missed half of the pandemic-shortened season due to an undisclosed illness and last season the former No. 2 overall pick played in just 36 games due to a knee injury. Over his first three seasons in the bigs, Senzel has appeared in just 163 games.
Last season, however, was the first time we'd seen Senzel play the infield. The former Volunteer manned second base in place of Jonathan India on six different occasions (including Wade Miley's no-hitter) and twice drew a start at third base.
There is no doubt that Nick Senzel can play third base. In fact, I'd wager he's a better defender at the hot corner than Mike Moustakas and the recently traded Eugenio Suárez. The only player who might give Senzel a run for his money defensively is Kyle Farmer.
Senzel has a keen eye at the plate, and has seen tremendous success at the dish during spurts of his career. The constant problem for Senzel has been his inability to stay on the field. Too many times, it seems, as soon as Senzel's bat heats up, he hits the IL.
The acquisition of Jake Fraley and the solid play of TJ Friedl to end the 2021 season gives Cincinnati some depth in center field beyond Nick Senzel. They're also paying Shogo Akiyama $8M this season and might as well see if the former Japanese star can finally produce at the major league level.
If those three combine to play center field over the course of the 2022 season, Nick Senzel could certainly try his hand at reclaiming his rightful place on the Cincinnati Reds infield. If a day off is warranted, the Reds could always turn to the aforementioned Moustakas or Farmer. Max Schrock can also field third base adequately.
The Reds have already come this far, why not go all-in and see what moving Nick Senzel back to third base might give them? They may just strike gold and find what they've been looking for all along; an inexpensive, yet productive third baseman who will add speed to the lineup.