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Cincinnati Reds 2019 Positional Recap - Center Field

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Center field was settled, right up until it wasn’t.

Cincinnati Reds v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Reds exited Spring Training without Nick Senzel, because the team was brazenly and unapologetically trying to manipulate his service time in order to gain another cheap year of team control he still needed a little time to learn the position of center field. Senzel would end up rolling his ankle immediately after being reassigned to the minor league squad and would be out until late April, anyway.

Still, everyone knew that the Reds were just biding their time until their top prospect was cheap enough ready. They really, not only in hindsight, didn’t really have a contingency plan. Billy Hamilton was released before the season, leaving few options to get by out there.

Let’s see how it went.

Reds CF - Team

WAA (MLB Rank) wRC+ PA AVG OBP SLG ISO wOBA BB/K
WAA (MLB Rank) wRC+ PA AVG OBP SLG ISO wOBA BB/K
-1.4 (21) 75 (26) 700 (9) 0.221 (28) .303 (21) .370 (26) .150 (23) .292 (25) 0.4 (12)

Not great, Bob!

Senzel, of course, missed the entire first month of the season and then most of the final month of the season, and the rest of the production the Reds got from their center fielders was, rather predictably, poopy.

That’s an official baseball term.

Senzel didn’t beat the brakes off the league, as we all would’ve liked or imagined, but I think the story here is how bad the rest of the Reds “center” “fielders” fared here. They were nearly last in average, and were really only helped by their ability to work a walk, relative to the rest of the league.

Thinking of the guys who got opportunities here, it’s not surprising to see the position be in the top ten in plate appearances. Senzel and Winker were often featured at the top of the lineup, and then there was Scott Schebler, which, well...

Let’s get to the numbers.

Reds CF - Players

Player PA AVG OBP SLG ISO BB/K wOBA wRC+ UZR/150 Innings (Defense)
Player PA AVG OBP SLG ISO BB/K wOBA wRC+ UZR/150 Innings (Defense)
Nick Senzel 405 0.258 0.318 0.432 0.174 0.3 0.318 92 -2.7 799.2
Scott Schebler 87 0.137 0.276 0.247 0.110 0.6 0.244 43 1.4 193.1
Phil Ervin 76 0.145 0.224 0.275 0.130 0.2 0.219 27 -2.8 162.2
Jesse Winker 70 0.259 0.386 0.379 0.121 1.8 0.340 106 -14.7 132
Michael Lorenzen 30 0.074 0.167 0.074 0.000 0.3 0.127 -33 -0.3 76
Brian O'Grady 23 0.222 0.391 0.500 0.278 0.4 0.379 132 -2.1 56
Jose Peraza 8 0.125 0.125 0.125 0.000 0.0 0.109 -45 -21.5 18.1

The story of Reds center field in 2019 revolves around Nick Senzel, even with all of the facts that have been mentioned. The biggest evidence of this? The player receiving the next most plate appearances at the position was Scott Schebler, who didn’t play in a Cincinnati Reds uniform after May 3rd.

It’s not necessarily surprising that Scott Schebler was a poor center fielder. I think it is surprising that he washed out as hard and as quickly as he did. He was always going to be somewhat of the odd man out after the trade that brought in Yasiel Puig to play his position. Still, this was The Plan for April.

It not only didn’t go well, it probably couldn’t have failed any more spectacularly.

Jesse Winker got some more time than I ever would’ve expected, given the general grumblings about his overall defensive skill. They had to get his bat into the lineup when Matt Kemp was on the team... though I have some better thoughts on how they could’ve done that (Don’t Play Matt Kemp; it’s that simple, folks).

Despite some talk about Michael Lorenzen getting enough time out there this season to officially become a Two Way Player designee in 2020, he didn’t really come all that close. He would’ve needed twice as many plate appearances that he got. Looking back at the new rules, it doesn’t really matter for a player who’s primarily a pitcher.

The Two Way designation is largely being put in place to cap the number of pitchers a team can carry and also prevent position players from taking the mound in all but a few circumstances. For a player that is going to be designated a pitcher anyway, Lorenzen can (and probably will) do everything the team has asked him to do in 2019.

Should he see enough time in the field, he could reach two way status in 2020. That would be beneficial for the Reds, because when a player reaches two way status, it opens up an extra slot on the roster for a pitcher. In this theoretical case, if Lorenzen was able to be listed as a two way player, the Reds could carry an extra pitcher. It’s only somewhat beneficial, as the roster is still capped at a total amount, but it may be somewhat helpful.

It’s all really filler, though. The 2019 Reds center field lived and died with Nick Senzel, and 2020’s center field, as it stands, is about Senzel’s availability and ability to play the position after his season ended early with a shoulder injury.

There’s a huge question about Senzel’s ability to even start the regular season with the club after labrum surgery and, being in his throwing arm, there’s an even bigger decision to make with his position once he comes back. An infielder by trade, would the prudent decision be to revert Senzel back into a second baseman and turn elsewhere for center field?

Problem is, the Reds have guys on the roster that can fill the second base void. Josh VanMeter can play it. Freddy Galvis can play it, if his option is picked up. Jose Peraza can play it, if he remains on the roster. Derek Dietrich, too, with all the same caveats (we’ll have more on whether or not we want any of those guys in the everyday lineup for the 2B review, but each can play it just fine defensively). If Nick Senzel is not playing center field for the 2020 Cincinnati Reds, who is? Is there anyone that can? Look at the names above and tell me which one you’d feel great about running out there everyday?

They can go out and sign a center fielder, though the market for real, actual, center fielders isn’t particularly strong. Jose Siri could probably come up and play something like gold glove defense in CF right now, but his bat would probably be worse than any of the ones that we mentioned that could fill in at 2B.

They had an answer for CF in the month+ that it took to call up Senzel, and it was a poor one. If Nick Senzel can’t, or shouldn’t, play CF in 2020, they may be in an even worse situation.