Yesterday we began with a positive. Kyle Farmer is an everyday player who can help a team win several games over the course of a season while playing different positions. Today we come to a negative: Nick Senzel. Nick Senzel is not an every day player and does not have a position to play at the major league level.
On the day of this post Senzel hit a home run to help the Reds vanquish the Cardinals 3-2. I am happy for this, happy for Senzel, happy for the Reds. I am glad he played such an important role in a victory over the hated Cardinals. It gives evidence that he has a role to play in helping this team, and future Reds teams, win games. However, it does not negate the facts of Nick Senzel's career so far.
Fact One. Senzel was the second player selected in the 2016 draft. He was touted as having an "advanced approach to hitting." In 2019 the Reds brought him up to the big club on May 3rd. Senzel proceeded to put up the best hitting numbers of his career so far with an OPS of 742, not bad for a rookie. Since then, however, (we are talking three seasons) his OPS has hovered around 600, not good for anybody. But on top of that, he has not shown a knack for the clutch hit, the key RBI due to making contact, the crucial execution of a bunt that helps the team win. These other skills are nowhere to be seen, neither on the stat sheet nor on the field.
Fact Two. Senzel has been often injured, having spent 40% of his major league career on IL or in rehab. What's more, when he is not on the IL, his injuries seem to hinder him from performing well enough to help his team. He has plus speed, when healthy. (But when is that?)
Fact Three. Senzel does not posses a major league outfielder's arm. He cannot throw the ball from medium deep centerfield to home plate. The only type of player with that kind of (limited) throwing capacity you allow to play center is one who is lighting fast (like Mickey Rivers). Senzel has plus speed (not great)...when healthy.
Fact Four. Senzel has been very unlucky. The injuries attest to this, but think about it for a minute. How many times have your watched him get thrown out at third, or second just by an eyelash? How many times has he just been nabbed at first to complete the ground ball double play? How many times has he just not caught up to that deep fly ball that went for a double that a real centerfielder would have caught for an out? Or again the blooper that seems to just drop in front of his diving attempt? Nick Senzel seems to live in that world of "just missed it by that much."
(It is my belief Albert Amora Jr. took away more hits in the outfield in half the playing time than Senzel was given, but I do not have a stat to back this up).
What all this suggests to me is a solid athlete who (1) is playing in the wrong position and (2) has not made the adjustment during his seven professional seasons to playing everyday, and (3) does not have the look, numbers or performance of an everyday major league hitter.
Let me pause here to say I have nothing against Nick Senzel. I root for him. For all I know, he is a good guy (I hear he recently got married: Congrats and blessings NIck!) He does not seem to be a distraction in the club house. He seems to work hard at his craft. I know he hustles all the time. From a fan's perspective he is easy to root for...except he doesn't help the team win.
That isn't to say the he could not play a valuable role on a winning (hopefully Reds) team. But it does mean that the Reds organization has to swallow hard and acknowledge they spent the second pick in the draft on a potentially valuable bench player. And here in lay the rub. The Reds organization does not seem to have the ability to make those tough calls (confessions?) that will allow them to develop and benefit from a player of Senzel's abilities. It takes honesty and humility and courage to face up to reality. Instead I assume they will give Nick Senzel another three months in 2023 to prove he is not an everyday player and then let him go via trade or releasing him when he has no more confidence left.
The 2022 season has taught us that Nick Senzel is not a centerfielder and he is not an everyday player. He could be valuable nonetheless appearing in 90-100 games at third, second, first, and left; filling in for weeks at a time for an injured starter and getting at bats against good match ups. Keep him in the 8 or 9 spot in the order so he does not need to face crucial situations as often (and can be pinch hit for in the latter innings). His plus speed can be a benefit from the bottom of the line up, when he does reach base he can score on extra base hits provided by the top of the order. And, using him around 100 games a year will get the benefit of his hustle and plus speed more often than when he is dinged up playing everyday.