Next man up! The Cincinnati Reds have officially moved on from former first-round pick Nick Senzel after non-tendering the 28-year-old on Friday. Senzel is now a free agent, and is free to sign with any club he'd like.
There were two measurable positives that Senzel brought to the Reds in 2023 - defensive versatility and an ability to obliterate left-handed pitching. Those are two areas that the Reds will need to address this offseason.
Cincinnati already has one of those two areas covered with the defensive prowess of last year's rookie Spencer Steer. But the Reds lack that platoon outfielder who can split time with Will Benson and Jake Fraley. Or do they?
Will Reds outfielder Stuart Fairchild will get more chances in 2024?
There may not have been a more scrutinized role player on the Cincinnati Reds 2023 roster than Stuart Fairchild. And yet, when given the opportunity, Fairchild showed flashes.
To be clear, Fairchild is not an everyday player. But neither was Nick Senzel. Both players had varying roles last season, with Senzel getting the lion's share of his starts against left-handed pitchers.
Fairchild didn't have vast differences in his splits and was used more often as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. Senzel had about 100 more at-bats than Fairchild last season. But several metrics favor Fairchild over Senzel.
Fairchild had a higher OPS, OPS+, walk-rate, and barrel-rate according to Baseball Savant. Fairchild also outpaced Senzel on the base paths and ranked among the 92nd-percentile in sprint speed. Defensively, Fairchild was worth 2 outs above average, while Senzel's poor fielding registered -9 OAA.
Will the Reds look to establish a niche role for Stuart Fairchild in 2024?
Nick Senzel crushed left-handed pitching. Senzel posted an OPS of 1.006 against southpaws. While Senzel may not have like the part-time role he was thrust into, the former No. 2 overall pick was quite good at it.
Will the Reds attempt to carve out a similar role next season for Stuart Fairchild? Some will point out that Fairchild's splits against left-handers are nowhere near what Senzel's were. But Senzel himself never really had that type of success against lefties until this past year.
In 2022, Senzel hit .241/.292/.304 against left-handed pitching and .226/.298/.307 against right-handed pitching. Prior to this past season, only Senzel's rookie year offers a track record of much better success when facing lefties instead of righties.
Most Reds fans are united in their desire to see Cincinnati invest heavily in the team's pitching staff. Despite non-tendering NIck Senzel and declining Joey Votto's option, the Reds still have 10 players who could claim one of the nine starting spots on the 2024 Opening Day roster.
Stuart Fairchild caught a lot of flack last season, but the 27-year-old is a plus-defender with plus-speed and some pop in his bat. A defined role in 2024 could help Fairchild reach his full potential.