A Minors Obsession

A slow start didn’t slow down Nick Senzel

When the Cincinnati Reds drafted third baseman Nick Senzel second overall in the 2016 draft, everyone was saying that the team had just picked the most polished hitter in the draft. Nearly everyone felt that he was the guy who could move through the minor leagues the quickest from the entire draft, at least from the position player side of things.

Then he headed out to Billings and struggled to get things going. In his first nine games he managed to go just 3-29. He was hitting just .103/.250/.138 for the Mustangs, but he had five walks and just four strikeouts in that time frame. His batting average on balls in play was just .115, a sign that he had been incredibly unlucky in that span.

In the 10th game with the Mustangs he went 2-4 with a walk and he was promoted to Dayton the next day. He hasn’t stopped hitting since. In 10 games with the Dragons he’s gone 14-40 with six doubles, five walks, six strikeouts and seven stolen bases. He’s posted a .350/.435/.500 line since his promotion.

Getting an in-person look at Senzel in Dayton at the start of the month a few things really stood out. First, his bat is quick. He has outstanding barrel awareness and the ball jumps off of his bat. Both of those things were expected based on scouting reports and what I had been able to see on video. What I hadn’t expected is how fast he was. He had good stolen base totals at Tennessee as a freshman and as a junior, stealing 14 and 25 in those seasons and was caught just three times in each. Since turning pro he already has 10 steals in just 20 games played. Reports coming out of college were more that he was average to slightly above-average – getting by more on being a smart runner than a speedster. He’s shown himself to be faster than that as a professional.

The slow start for Senzel was likely related to the time off between the end of his college season and his start in Billings. Now that he’s settled back in he is showing everything that it seemed everyone thought he would. And then some.

20 thoughts on “A slow start didn’t slow down Nick Senzel

  1. Nice update on Senzel, Doug. Just yesterday I had checked all the position players drafted in the top 15 and Senzel is pretty mush leading the way. Not only is he the most polished hitter, so far he is the best all-round hitter/player. Moniak is doing well, Lewis is doing well, and Kirilloff is doing well, but not all-round like Senzel.
    I was kind of leaning toward Lewis before the draft, but I believe the Reds got themselves the best hitter afterall.

    • I sure hope so, but it’s hard to say how good the high school hitters will be in 3 years when they are at the same point developmentally as Senzel.

      • I think his point is that high schoolers have less time under their belts and it’s hard to project where they will be when they catch up in terms of time, not skill.

    • You know who else is doing well??? Our 2nd round high school pick Taylor Trammell!
      Taylor Trammell:
      AVG OBP SLG OPS
      .300 .364 .357 .721

      Mickey Moniak
      .277 .314 .383 .697

      Thats with 70 ABs for Trammell compared to Moniak at 47 ABs both in Rookie ball

      • Trammell was the Reds 2nd pick, but he was a 1st rounder.

        Worth noting though that Trammell is playing at a higher level than Moniak is, but Trammell is playing in one of the most hitter friendly leagues in minor league baseball, while Moniak is playing in the most pitcher friendly league in minor league baseball.

        • You’re right I forgot he was a 1st rounder but our 2nd overall pick. In any case do you view Trammell as having a more impressive start than Moniak? Even with the differences you just explained?

  2. Good looking swing. Is it verifiably true that high school hitters are riskier than college hitters? I’ve always assumed it to be true and I’ve read it. Presumably those drafted highly out of high school have more talent (in general) than those drafted equally highly out of college (as those hitters wouldn’t have gone to college if drafted highly 3 years prior).

    Is my rationale off? Higher risk, higher reward for highly drafted high school hitters? Or is it not so simple?

    • It’s absolutely true that high schoolers present more risk. We have evidence that shows that. Of course, we also know that high schoolers represent more upside, as a whole. That’s not always true, but as a whole, it is.

      The safest pick in draft history is a 1st round college third baseman. The riskiest pick is a 1st round high school catcher (followed by a 1st round college catcher – catching is hard).

      Of course, it’s never as simple as just looking at the overall numbers. These guys are all individuals, so the overall sense of risk/reward doesn’t apply.

      • So the Reds went from the most risky to the least risky in back-to-back seasons. Very interesting!

  3. SSS, but Kyle Lewis has been amazing since June 27 with .367/.466/.735, 15.5% BB, 13.8% K, and 3 HR.

    • The lack of strikeouts with Lewis has been real interesting to see. If he’s able to keep a low strikeout rate – man, that will be fun to see in action.

      • Doubt the strike outs stay low. Lewis may be good in time, but 9 teams passed on him so he was risky with a capital K. Also, he was a RF so there was less value on defense.

  4. I hope the Reds keep drafting and acquiring through trades high OBP guys like Senzel and Okey, and that it’s a sign of things to come with Dick Williams as GM who seems a lot more open to advanced analytics than Jocketty ever was. If so then maybe after a few drafts we’ll find our farm full of guys who work counts, get on base, wear down pitchers, etc…

  5. Senzel is so exciting. Seems to have really good control of the strike zone. As Duke said, we certainly need more of those guys. Hoping he moves fast.

  6. Doug, if Senzel keeps this pace going, do you see him going to Daytona and getting 3-4 weeks in there before season’s end? And possibly starting next season at Pensacola?

  7. You wonder if he goes to AFL. I always thought that going right out of college was a bad idea for Howard 2 years ago, but a hitter may be different.

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