I’d start looking for tickets. Or at least broadcast availability.
Thursday the Reds open up a four-game home stand against the St. Louis Cardinals. But the night to circle on your calendar is 24 hours later, Friday, April 13. Game time is 6:40 p.m. The forecast is for a high of 77º a low of 59º and a chance of Nick Senzel.
The club hasn’t announced it yet, but hints abound that the Reds may call up their top prospect for the last three games of the weekend series.
Nick Senzel is playing third base tonight for the Louisville Bats, just as C. Trent Rosecrans reported this morning that he’d been told. April 13 happens to be the date minor league players can be promoted in the 2018 season and not accrue a full year of service time.
What’s the significance of Nick Senzel playing third base? After all, he played that position all through 2017. Eugenio Suarez’s fractured right thumb, that’s the significance. Senzel has been at second base this week for the Bats, and before that played shortstop for much of spring training.
The Reds haven’t commented on the severity of Suarez’s injury. But based on DL time served by major league players with fractured thumbs the past two seasons, Suarez could be back any time from two weeks to three months. Six-to-eight weeks would be a best guess absent an official statement. That’s late May, early June, for Suarez to return.
Now juxtapose that estimate with major league labor law surrounding Super Two arbitration status. The safe timing for holding players in AAA to avoid the S2 cutoff is early- to mid-June. So if the Reds were planning to hold Nick Senzel until he’d cleared the Super Two cutoff, Eugenio Suarez would likely be back playing third base by then.
So, the club moving the 22-year-old Senzel to 3B right now means the Reds don’t intend to wait until June to call up their top prospect. And if they don’t wait until June, there’s no point in waiting any longer than April 13, this Friday, against the St. Louis Cardinals.
What do we think of calling up Nick Senzel this soon, if that’s what happens?
Here’s the case against it: Nick Senzel had 235 plate appearances in AA and has only 17 PA’s in AAA. In those 17 at bats, he’s hitting .235 with no walks and one extra-base hit. Giving Senzel two months to build confidence hitting AAA pitching is the time-tested way to develop a player, even great ones. By comparison, Joey Votto had 592 plate appearances in AAA. Kris Bryant of the Cubs had 330 PAs in AAA.
Eugenio Suarez will be the Reds 3B for the long haul. The Reds aren’t going to sign a 7-year contract with a player who hasn’t succeeded at the position they intend to play him. Given that, Senzel should keep playing and learning middle infield since that’s his long-term future for the Reds, either at SS or 2B. There’s no short-term benefit, either wins and losses or at the ticket booth, worth slowing down Senzel’s development at his eventual position. Delaying Senzel’s arrival until June would allow the Reds to give Alex Blandino (25) a serious look by playing him most nights at third base.
Here’s the case for it: Senzel is the best healthy third baseman in the organization. With Suarez and Scott Schebler out of the Reds lineup, Senzel’s bat – not Alex Blandino’s bat – is needed for offense. Bryce Harper had 84 plate appearances in AAA. Mike Trout had 93. Dansby Swanson had just 45.
Nick Senzel has demonstrated an ability to switch infield positions, so if he plays 3B for Suarez now, he can move over to SS or 2B when the Reds third baseman returns. Or, there’s the way-outside chance the Reds intend to have Suarez move back to shortstop. And, if Senzel’s call up happens to add excitement (and ticket sales) to a team off to a 2-7 start, that’s a plus for fans and the organization. Even Mom-and-Pop produce stands appreciate more business.
Tapping the brakes is never fun. But Nick Senzel playing third tonight might not mean anything more than just a night off for the Bats other third baseman. And even if they do intend to call Senzel up before the Super Two cutoff, the front office could choose any date between this Friday and Suarez’s return to call Senzel up and give him playing time at third. There might even be good developmental reason to wait a couple weeks.
That said, I’ve already started thinking about where I’m gonna be at 6:40 p.m. this Friday.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.