The Cincinnati Reds don’t exactly have a center fielder right now. It seems that they have five outfielders on the big league roster. Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler were starters from the 2018 team. Phillip Ervin played well off of the bench as a backup. And then the Reds went out and brought in Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in the Dodgers trade. But among that group, it doesn’t sound like the Reds are overly confident that any of them are the answer to center field for 2019. Not among the group listed above is Nick Senzel – the teams top prospect.
Of course, Nick Senzel has never played a single inning of center field in a game that counts in the record books in his professional, or college career. Where he did play center was in instructional league during the fall of 2018. The plan was to then send him to the Arizona Fall League to get more experience, but his elbow became a problem and he needed surgery to have bone spurs removed.
The reports on Nick Senzel’s defense in regards to center field have been mixed. Some reports relayed to me suggest that he could play out there with more experience. Other reports relayed to me said that there wasn’t much of a chance he could be an every day defender out there. The Reds, seem uncertain, too. But the President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams is excited to see what he can do out there.
In an interview with Lance McAlister on 700 WLW on Monday night Williams was talking about the outfielders in regards to center and mentioned Nick Senzel as a potential option. He said “(he’s) very athletic, we’re interested to see what he can do out there”. And it certainly seems that, at least as things stand right now, center field is going to be the only opportunity for him to break into the every day lineup at one position.
Earlier in the interview Dick Williams was asked specifically about Nick Senzel. Williams said this:
We’re not going to monkey with the roster just to create a spot for him because we’ve got a lot of good players around the diamond and they are in positions where he’s probably best suited. Those players aren’t necessarily going to be here long term. There will be opportunity for him to play. If that means getting creative with him and trying to play him n other spots, we are very open to that.
There’s a few things that we can take away from that snippet. First is that if you read between the lines, that doesn’t sound like Scooter Gennett is in the long term plans for the Reds. He plays one of the positions that Nick Senzel has played, with the other being third base. Third base IS played by someone with a long term contract. And if we wanted to get really nit-picky with it, Senzel has also played one game at shortstop, but that spot is also played by someone under long term team control in Jose Peraza. The corner outfield spots have potential long-ish term answers. Jesse Winker was a rookie last year. Scott Schebler hasn’t even reached arbitration yet.
At least for the 2019 season, it would seem that barring something unforeseen, if Nick Senzel is going to play every day for the Reds, center field is the only option. Unless, of course, there’s an injury that opens up a spot. He’s currently out in Goodyear at the Reds complex working every day.
In the interview, Williams noted that David Bell was recently in Goodyear and watched Nick Senzel working in center field. One thing you will always hear about Senzel is how hard of a worker he is. He puts in the work and then some. I’ve heard it since before he was drafted. And I’ve heard it more times than I can count since. It takes more than simply wanting to play center to make it work. It takes the right ability. But if Nick Senzel has that athletic ability, then he’s going to make it work. He’s the type of guy who is going to get the most out of what he’s been given.
For now, there’s still a whole lot of unknown when it comes to Nick Senzel. And there’s still a whole lot of unknown when it comes to the Reds center fielder in 2019. But if there were ever going to be a wild card that really puts things together for Cincinnati this upcoming season, Senzel being able to play center field 150 times would be it. But for now, we will just have to wait and see.