In a ho-hum September 3rd loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Nick Senzel went a quiet 0 for 2 with a K. There was nothing truly special about his at-bats, nor was the 6-2 loss for the Cincinnati Reds particularly memorable.
It was, though, the last game Senzel would start for the Reds in his rookie campaign. A bad shoulder sent him to the bench for a trio of games, and after a lone pinch-hit appearance and some mop-up duty as a defensive replacement, he was shut down for good, labrum surgery on his shoulder soon following.
The disappointing end to what had at times been a promising first season with the Reds was frustrating to all parties involved, and Senzel’s name popping up in numerous trade rumors over the course of the winter certainly didn’t help return him to the status he held with most Reds fans just this time last year. In fact, the rumors, the surgery, the disappointing rookie season, and the Reds offseason of numerous OF additions has almost sent Senzel into under-the-radar status heading into 2020, though that’s also largely due to the fact that the shoulder surgery meant we’ve not seen, or heard, a peep out of him as spring camp is just on the horizon.
That changed today, though. As Jim Day of FS-Ohio relayed via Instagram, Senzel is not only in Goodyear early, he’s taking hacks in batting practice and looks plenty healthy doing so.
Once you get beyond just being ecstatic to see taking healthy rips (and file the new arm tats to memory), what becomes apparent is that Senzel sure does appear to be approaching each swing the way he did early in the 2019 season - with the swing he’s used for most of his entire life. Senzel infamously tried out a more upright batting stance mid-season last year to frustrating results, and had just returned to his old stance before the shoulder issues ended his season prematurely. Considering his desire to go back to the old way and that both Turner Ward and Donnie Ecker - last season’s hitting coaches/gurus - have since left the Reds altogether, this would certainly appear to suggest that the tinkering with the Reds brightest young position player has been halted. For now, at least.
On a related note, Joey Votto is in camp early, too, as Day also relayed. And while Senzel appears to have turned back to the approach that made him such a highly touted prospect in the first place, one look at Votto shows that the swing adjustment he put in place mid-year in 2019 is still around, as he’s not crouched and choking up on the bat the way he had for so many amazing seasons. Votto stood more upright with his hands back to the knob for the final few months of 2019 to decent results, and it should, in theory, help give him the kind of additional leverage that might allow for his power to return a bit. At age 36, any marginal improvement in that area is certainly worth pursuing, as Votto certainly knows, and getting any glimpse into the thought process of one of baseball’s most introspective stars is always fun to see play out.
In other news, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon spoke with manager David Bell about the crowded outfield situation, and Bell certainly appears to have a very optimistic approach to it. From a manager’s perspective, having too much talent around is always a good ‘problem’ to have, and Bell certainly seems to think things will sort themselves out both in Goodyear this spring and throughout the long grind of the season. Speaking of which, if you look closely at Day’s video of Votto taking BP, you’ll see that both Jesse Winker and Travis Jankowski are in camp early as well, which is a good indication that they’re all well aware of the competition it’s going to take to earn regular OF playing time from day one.
Over at FanGraphs, Craig Edwards looked at the fallout from the blockbuster trade that went down over the weekend, the one that saw Mookie Betts and David Price head from the Red Sox to the Dodgers (courtesy of some fuel provided by the Reds themselves). Edwards focuses as well on a deal that didn’t end up going down, the Joc Pederson to the Angels portion that fell apart after the original three-team deal between Boston, the Dodgers, and the Twins collapsed. The entire whirlwind is fun to look back through from each party’s perspective, but what occurred to me is that with Pederson still on the Dodgers, they, too, have an incredible roster glut. One player in particular appears to be getting the squeeze - Chris Taylor, who can cover all three OF spots as well as most of the infield. Considering the Reds most obvious hole is at SS both for 2020 and 2021, Taylor’s most career innings at any one position are at SS, and that he’s under team control for the next two seasons, he has rocketed up my own personal ‘REDS SHOULD INQUIRE ABOUT A TRAID’ list. Just a nibble for thought.
To tie a bow on this, MLB.com has compiled a list of some of the best position battles to keep an eye on this spring, including the crowded Reds OF and how the Dodgers plan on backfilling their starting rotation after numerous departures. It’s a good read as a primer for the 2020 season, too, as there has certainly been turnover around the league. And no, you are currently weighing the merits of a Chris Taylor for southern California native Tyler Mahle deal now.