A 110 wRC+ isn’t bad, per se. That’s exactly what Joey Gallo posted for the Texas Rangers just last year, which ranked 76th among the 140 qualified hitters in Major League Baseball, sandwiched right around the likes of Jean Segura, Carlos Santana, and Derek Dietrich. That’s just about average for a regular, it seems, as is 2.4 fWAR for a season’s worth of work, which is exactly how Mike Moustakas was valued for his 2018 efforts. That ranked 84th among those 140 qualified hitters.
2.4 fWAR and 110 wRC+ aren’t just arbitrary numbers here, either. They’re just some of the more calculated estimates for what Cincinnati Reds prospect Nick Senzel will produce during the 2019 season - even some of the more optimistic ones, at that. That relative modesty is fair, I suppose, if you remove your Reds goggles and admit that he’s embarking on a totally new enterprise as a CF and has played a grand total of 101 minor league games above A ball. That’s a projected just fine player for the Reds, should those levels of production be reached by their top prospect this season.
Y’know, what if he just blows right on past both of those marks?
What if his .390 career OBP in the minors translates immediately the way Jesse Winker’s did, he continues to be a blithering doubles machine, and his incredible underrated athleticism gives him the perfect platform to be, dare I say, an actual good defensive CF?
The idea that it takes a bit of time for even the best of the bunch of baseball prospects to emerge as big league stars is far from a foreign one. Top prospects like Nolan Arenado, Christian Yelich, Andrew McCutchen, and Anthony Rendon, for instance, took relative lumps as rookies before eventually emerging as perennial powers in their respective lineups, as did the likes of Alex Bregman, Matt Chapman, A.J. Pollock, and numerous others. That Senzel’s gradual emergence might follow in their footsteps is certainly a plausible concept.
Sometimes, though, the obvious future stars just hit the ground running from day one. That’s precisely what Kris Bryant did with the Chicago Cubs in 2015 after a pair of weeks in AAA to ‘work on his defense.’ Evan Longoria similarly wasted zero time in his rookie year, socking 27 dingers and posting 5.6 fWAR (which was actually his lowest total in any of his first four seasons). Corey Seager did it, as did Ronald Acuna just last year.
Mike Trout did it.
The idea that Nick Senzel takes the baseball world by storm is enough to keep you up at night, dreaming about the next great Cincinnati Reds club. In reality, the most recent Reds prospect that inspired those kinds of visions of grandeur was Jay Bruce, who - like Senzel - was a perennial top prospect prior to being called-up, even landing as the top overall prospect by the likes of Baseball America. It was Bruce being the first name out of the mouths of prospect gurus that actually had me find Red Reporter back in 2008, when his inevitable emergence had me as jazzed to be a Reds fan as I had been at any point in the previous two decades, his eventual conquering of the baseball world the sound of inevitability, Mr. Anderson.
With Bruce, of course, things didn’t quite pan out that simply, even though he proved to be a solidly above-average player for most of his time as a Red. Still, that really shouldn’t dampen the most ardent hopes for Senzel, who possesses a set of skills that still could, maybe, have him be among the best baseball players on the planet from the moment he first takes a big league field.
Maybe he hits .310 this year like he did in AAA last year. Maybe he hits 26 homers like Seager did in his 2016 rookie campaign, or swiped 33 bags like Trea Turner did in his electric first season. Maybe he finds a way to replicate all three, something that consensus Top 10 overall prospects just do sometimes when they finally get a chance to play on the biggest of stages.
Nick Senzel might hit .267 with a .782 OPS in his rookie season like the projection systems suggest, and that wouldn’t be at all a disappointment. The thing is, he’s got the talent and potential to someday blow well past both of those marks while emerging as the next Reds legend, and the Reds and Reds fans alike are banking on him turning into that perennial All Star at some point in their future. What if somehow we all luck out and that happens as early as his rookie year?
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.