Nick Senzel entered camp with the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear, AZ with a point to prove, namely that he was the best person for their CF job in the wake of Billy Hamilton being non-tendered. The consensus top prospect in the Reds system - and consensus Top 10 overall prospect in the game - Senzel had rocketed through the minor leagues with a bat that was clearly MLB ready, his big league debut in 2018 only derailed due to a finger issue that required surgery and prematurely ended his season.
Senzel hit .308 in Cactus League play this spring with 6 doubles, stole 4 bags without being caught, and pretty clearly showed the athleticism needed to play a competent, if not better, CF. But thanks to the way that MLB teams can manipulate service time, he was officially reassigned to minor league camp today, ensuring that he’ll start the 2019 season in the minor leagues. The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans had the news.
Top prospect Nick Senzel among those reassigned to #Reds minor league camp— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) March 22, 2019
On top of that, the Reds themselves announced that Senzel was just one of many notable names reassigned, including the red-hot Phil Ervin - one of the few players actually on the 40-man roster that can play some CF, too.
The Reds have reassigned to minor league camp:— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) March 22, 2019
LHP Ian Krol
LHP Cody Reed
RHP Sal Romano
RHP Lucas Sims
C Juan Graterol
IF/C Kyle Farmer
IF Blake Trahan
OF Phillip Ervin
OF Nick Senzel#RedsST ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/UcsZfklKOC
It’s a big, fat disappointment, truly, one that will be exacerbated some three weeks after Opening Day when Senzel is recalled. Yes, that will make sure the Reds have team control over Senzel through 2025 instead of just through 2024, but as the Chicago White Sox showed earlier this week - and as numerous other teams for years and years throughout MLB history have shown - if you want to keep your best players around, you can just sign them to contract extensions. Jay Bruce, Eugenio Suarez, Tucker Barnhart, you name it, the Reds themselves have done just that to make sure their best players are around as long as wanted.
Y’know what makes a player less inclined to want to sign a contract extension? Being jostled with to exploit loopholes that suppress earning capabilities, something the Chicago Cubs have learned first-hand with the way they mismanaged the early portion of Kris Bryant’s career.
Of course, there’s going to be talk that Senzel, who has never played CF as a professional outside of spring training, simply wasn’t ready yet, and that he needed to ‘marinate’ in AAA a bit before being called up. So, we’ll see Scott Schebler - who while red-hot at the plate this spring has consistently rated as a sub-par OF defender in all positions, let alone in CF - likely get the regular reps there to start the season. That’s not to say that Schebler doesn’t deserve to play - he does - just that the same deficiencies in his game will be glossed over while the one’s in Senzel’s will get used as the reason behind why he’s been demoted, and that’s just a double standard that sticks in my crawl.
(Not to mention that they’ll cite OF defense as a reason to keep Senzel down while still opting to roll out human statues in Matt Kemp and Jesse Winker as everyday OFs, but I digress...)
Anyway, while this move was predictable as can be, it sure serves as a big wet blanket on what had otherwise been a brilliantly exciting offseason, and it comes less than a week from Opening Day. I sure hope that extra cash savedmakes the front office and ownership feel better about it.