As I think is well-known, I was not a believer when it came to Scooter Gennett at the beginning of the season. I was wrong about that. There’s enough sample now that I buy it. He can hit. Really hit. So, as I proceed with this, know that I am not impugning his offensive skills. He’s clear, at this moment, one of the top-50 hitters in baseball.
First, let’s take a look at the polls I ran this week:
Next season Scooter Gennett should:
— Redleg Nation (@redlegnation) July 3, 2018
Next season Nick Senzel should
— Redleg Nation (@redlegnation) July 3, 2018
I understand the desire to have Scooter on the team next year. I probably still fall in the “trade him” camp, but I wouldn’t complain if he was starting in the outfield on Opening Day next year. However, it makes no sense to do anything other than start Nick Senzel at second base next year.
Defensive statistics are problematic and deeply flawed (remember it is general accepted that you need THREE SEASON of defensive statistics to properly judge a player’s abilities, so half a season is equivalent to roughly 100 PAs). I wish the various stat keepers would revise them. I’m sure that will happen eventually. But some things are clear, at least. For instance, left field, right field, and first base are the least important positions defensively. Second base and third base are pretty important, and shortstop is the most important. Being realistic, there are five real candidates for playing time at those three positions next year. And in terms of their defensive ability, the various candidates probably rate like this (I’ve seen Blandino and Senzel a fair bit at Louisville).
- Jose Peraza – Good/Very Good at short. Excellent elsewhere.
- Eugenio Suarez – Excellent at third. Adequate at short.
- Nick Senzel – Very Good/Excellent at third and second. Probably adequate at short.
- Alex Blandino – Good at second and third. Adequate at short.
- Scooter Gennett – Terrible in the infield.
Of course defense is only part of it. There’s also offense. And on that level, the players probably rank like this:
- Eugenio Suarez
- (tie) Scooter Gennett and Nick Senzel
- Alex Blandino
- Jose Peraza
I know people are going to want to argue about Senzel. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overrating him, so I went and looked at scouting reports. He is rated as one of the five best hitters in the minors and projects to be – more or less immediately one of the best hitters in the majors. You know those phenoms it feels like only other teams ever have? That’s Nick Senzel He has a plus-plus hit tool with an elite plate approach and above average power. Think Jesse Winker with substantially more power.
The Reds control Nick Senzel for (at least) six years and – because of his defense – he’s probably better than Scooter Gennett overall right now (or, he will be once his finger is fixed). So I don’t know what the handful who thought he should be traded were thinking.
The problem is that – defensively – a Senzel-Gennett middle infield is probably bad news. I understand people thinking the solution is to get Peraza’s bat out of the lineup, but I don’t agree. Defense matters not just because it prevents runs, but it also eases the stress load on pitchers – and the Reds have a lot of young pitchers.
However, I do think you could get by with something like a Senzel-Blandino infield or (if you want to be really creative Senzel – Herrera), but I don’t think you can get by with Senzel-Gennett.
This means the best solution for maximizing value is to make sure Senzel is starting in the outfield and Gennett is either traded for a piece that immediately fills an area of need for the Reds OR he is shifted to the outfield where his lack of defensive value is less problematic and where the Reds are much shallower as an organization.
After that, I think you can arrange the infield however you want. If you want the best possible defense, you probably go Suarez-Peraza-Senzel with any other combination giving you something sold, but unspectacular.
This is all just my opinion, of course, but the only approach I don’t understand is the one where Gennett is a second baseman. Nick Senzel’s don’t come along very often. And yes, I know I’ve beat this horse before but betting on players to keep producing at current levels as they enter the decline phase is usually a bad bet. Bet on the highly-regarded prospect with excellent plate discipline and you’re going to win a lot more often than not.