Nick Senzel, the Cincinnati Reds top prospect, missed the second half of the 2018 season. His year began in Triple-A Louisville. And it began with him playing second base, a position that was new to him as a professional. But, he did spend some time there, albeit a bit limited, while he was in college at Tennessee. The move went well. In fact, it went better than well. He was named as the International League’s best defensive second baseman. At the plate he did what he’s always done: raked. In 44 games he hit .310/.378/.509 for the Bats.
Unfortunately, his season came to an end on June 22nd. While making a relay throw home he injured his finger. He would wind up needing surgery that would keep him out until instructional league. With Scooter Gennett continuing to hit well at the Major League level, the Reds had another idea for Nick Senzel: play the outfield. The initial idea was to get him time in left field, but also try both right and center field. The Reds instructional league is almost over – it will run through Friday before completion. C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic spoke with new Vice President, Director of Player Development Shawn Pender about it and tweeted this:
With #Reds instructs winding down, asked Shawn Pender about Nick Senzel. Senzel played LF and CF. ‘I don’t think there’s a position on the field he couldn’t play. Yeah. He took to it really well.’ Worked with Eric Davis and Reggie Williams
— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) October 11, 2018
If these words are to be believed, then it’s time for the Cincinnati Reds front office to do something drastic. That drastic thing? Print up 162 lineup cards for the 2019 season with Nick Senzel’s name already on them, hitting somewhere between 1st and 3rd in the lineup, with the letters CF next to his name.
On Tuesday I wrote about the options that the Reds had with regards to Billy Hamilton and Scooter Gennett and the raises they were due in arbitration. In that article I wrote that it may make sense to trade Scooter Gennett and slide Nick Senzel in at second base. That would free up about $10.5M to spend elsewhere on the team. I also suggested attempting to move Hamilton in trade or possibly non-tendering him and saving another $6M.
Again, if the words of Shawn Pender are to be believed about Nick Senzel, this opens up other possibilities. One of those would be to start Senzel in center field and keep Scooter Gennett at second base. That won’t free up as much money. But, it would drastically improve the offense and probably put them as one of the better teams in the league. With Senzel in center, looking around the field, the only two guys in the every day eight that might be considered below-average hitters would be Jose Peraza and Tucker Barnhart.
There would still be plenty of work to do for the Reds in order to get to the point where they were competitive. But replacing Billy Hamilton in the lineup with Nick Senzel would be a massive boost offensively. It would also free up about $5.5M in salary that could be added to whatever it was that they were going to add to the 2018 payroll. That money could be used to either sign free agent pitching, or take on salary for pitching in a trade. If the Reds believe Senzel can actually play center field, this is an easy decision to make.
Nick Senzel will need elbow surgery
About 12 hours after I posted this article news broke that Nick Senzel would require surgery to have bone spurs removed in his elbow. Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer had this one first. Aside from not being able to play in the Arizona Fall League because of it, this doesn’t look to set back anything. He’s expected to be ready by spring training, and really should only keep him off of the baseball field for a few weeks during the offseason.