The 2019 season is behind us and we’re taking a look back at how it played out for the major players on the Cincinnati Reds. Today we’re going to look at outfielder Nick Senzel.

The Preseason Projection

Nick Senzel was projected to get called up to the big league team and have an immediate impact in his rookie season, like most top prospects. He wasn’t projected to play everyday, but at the time projections were released, no one really knew what position he would play.

Here are Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for Senzel from early February:

AB 2B 3B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG WAR
333 21 3 11 33 93 .267 .335 .447 1.9

The 2019 Season

Nick Senzel started spring training last year with the hope that if he played well enough, he would get an Opening Day roster spot. But he twisted his ankle sliding into second base during spring training and the Reds didn’t think he was ready when it came time to finalize the roster. (Some fans speculated he was sent down to manipulate service time, but that’s a different topic for a different time).

At Triple-A Louisville, he shook the rust off and played in eight games, getting nine hits and scoring seven runs in 35 at-bats. The combination of Scott Schebler’s underwhelming performance in Cincinnati and Senzel playing well at Triple-A led the Reds to promote him on May 3. Once he was at the big league level, manager David Bell played him nearly everyday until Senzel had to have shoulder surgery in early September for a torn labrum. 

Senzel started his MLB career admirably, hitting around .280 with an .815 OPS in May. He saw a dropoff in June, hitting only .256/.304/.488, but still had four home runs. July was different, however. He went on a tear, hitting .333/.397/.470 with an OPS of .867 in 73 plate appearances. Even though he played less games in July, he made more contact, recording 22 hits and striking out only 13 times.

On August 2nd, he was batting .285, a season high. Then, it all went downhill. In the month of August, Senzel hit .184/.238/.296. He did have three home runs, but those three home runs were part of just 18 hits in 98 at-bats. Later it was found out that Senzel tried to make an adjustment to his swing. It didn’t work out as he had hoped.

Overall, he finished with a slash line of .256/.315/.427, an .742 OPS and an 89 OPS+. If it wasn’t for that massive slump in August, he probably would have beat most of the ZiPS projections. As it stands, he did beat a couple of them. ZiPS had him playing in only 86 games, but he played in 104 games. He had a higher slugging percentage than was projected, and he finished with 12 home runs, one above the projection. His OPS+ was well below the projected 106, but with an 89 OPS+, it wasn’t too far below league average.

Looking Towards 2020

As long as he’s healthy, Senzel will be in the lineup on Opening Day for his sophomore season. It’s not his fault injuries happen, but Senzel will hope he can avoid them in 2020. He’s had quite a string of bad luck, with the torn ligament in his index finger in 2018 and the ankle sprain and labrum tear in 2019. He’s still young enough (entering his age 25 season) that it shouldn’t be a concern yet, especially since before these last two years, he hasn’t had a history of injuries. He went through both college and the minor leagues relatively injury-free.

Even with his slump at the end of 2019, he still proved he belongs in the lineup as an everyday player. He started 62 games from the lead-off spot, and barring any other trades or signings for a speedy, high OBP player, it looks like that will be his spot in the lineup once again. With the signing of Mike Moustakas, it’s now known that Senzel will most likely play center field. He adapted to the outfield quite nicely, and at Redsfest earlier this month, he told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that he’s looking forward to knowing what position he will play going into spring training.

There’s a reason he was the top prospect in the organization and he showed it for three months. If he can stay on the field for a full season in 2020, Senzel will definitely have the chance to prove he can be a star.

15 Responses

  1. AirborneJayJay

    The Reds have really fumbled Senzel’s situation with the team ever since last spring. They had the chance to move him back to the infield this off-season where he belongs, but they couldn’t even get that right.
    With the market soaring for 3B, the Reds have 3, and should explore the possibility of offering up the newly signed Moustakas to see if they could recoup a starting SS and CF from the trade. And then move Senzel back to 2B.
    Hello, Andrew Friedman of the LA Dodgers.
    Come on down, Alex Anthropolous of Atlanta, for the price is right.

    • Ed

      Huh. Trade Moustakas… because his production will be less than Senzels? The trade calculator has Senzel valued pretty high. Which starting shortstop and center fielder are you looking to get from the Braves or the Dodgers? I dunno but this makes no sense. Deal Senzel maybe, but if the point in signing Moose was to finally have good hitting in the 3/4 hole, you aren’t gonna find a replacement for that power once you trade him away.

    • BK

      Moreover, the CBA does not allow a free agent signee (or a player that accepts a qualifying offer) to be traded prior to Jun 15 of the following year without the players consent. In effect, Moustakas has a no-trade clause through Jun 15, 2020.

  2. RedsFan11

    Any chance if Reds sign/trade an OF he can be moved to SS? I know it’s a LOT to ask as he has been forced to move positions multiple times already. Either way I think Senzel is poised to have a break out year and be a huge part in leading the Reds back to the playoffs in 2020!!

  3. Sliotar

    Per FanGraphs…

    In 2019, Nick Senzel…

    Batting 1st – 285 plate appearances, wRC+ 109

    Batting All Other Positions – 129 plate appearances, wRC+ 48

  4. Sliotar

    Senzel apparently has a home in the field (CF) and, IMO, should be the lead-off hitter every day he plays in 2020.

    Set it and forget it.

    His all-out, “gamer”, style of play does risk injury, but it is fun to watch.

    And, like George Springer of the Astros, he has a complete skill set, can do anything needed in that 5th at-bat that lead-off guys freqently get. Bunt, steal a base, try for a home run…whatever the situation calls for.

    Not a coincidence that the Astros are reportedly trying to re-sign Springer and trade Correa, even though Springer is entering age 31 season and Correa is much younger.

    What Springer does in lead-off spot is rare…and I think Senzel could grow into the same role with the Reds.

    • KDJ

      Isn’t it written somewhere that the CF must bat first?

      • Tom

        Book Of Baker, Chapter 1, Page 1. Immediately followed by “The SS must bat 2nd”.

    • Old-school

      You are describing Barry Larkin. A guy who could beat you every way. Let’s hope Senzel hits leadoff every day and stays healthy and scores 100 runs.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      I’d rather see Senzel play everyday and not play so much all-out on every play.

  5. GreatRedLegsFan

    If only Senzel has an injury-free season, Votto is able to have a better season plus the addition of Moustakas, that all should impact the offense. FO should then focus in finding improvement for C & SS positions.

  6. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Two things:

    1) Senzel has said he believes he can bat 300 in this league

    2) I could easily see Senzel moving to SS if we find an OF for CF.

    • jon

      How many times do the reds have to say Senzel is not playing SS for the reds. SMH.Plus Galvis is better.

  7. CP

    Love this kid! I’ve been following him sense the day we drafted him, thanks to Doug that is. I agree he does have the stuff to be a star. He just needs those stars to align a little bit better for him and stay healthy and the talent will play (see what I did there 🙂 ).

    Agreed as well with what someone else said about putting him at leadoff everyday and just go.

    Senzel- CF
    Votto- 1B
    Suarez- 3B
    Moose- 2B
    Winker- LF
    Aquino- RF
    Galvis- SS
    Barnart- C

    Pipedream here, but hopefully Tyler Stephenson can home out the gates smashing at AAA and push for a second half promotion to provide a little more offensive production for the catcher spot. An internal kind of boost like that can really give a team what they need to get into the playoffs and make a run.