Just a few weeks of baseball remain, for those of us loyal to the Redlegs. Much has been and will continue to be made on the importance of the upcoming offseason with guys like Josh VanMeter and Aristides Aquino. Ever since their respective call-ups, they have garnered the attention and wonder of Reds fans far and wide. Someone who has been forgotten in the shuffle of things is Nick Senzel.
Despite being the centerpiece of the rebuild, his fading into anonymity is understandable. Senzel has not put up the gaudy numbers of the Pete Alonsos and Yordan Alvarezes of the world. In fact, according to OPS+ (88) and WRC+ (89) he is a below average hitter. Most will attribute that to the fact he is a rookie and needs some seasoning but that got me thinking. Where does our man Nick stack up to the last phenom to rise through the Reds farm system?
Jay Bruce arrived in Cincinnati on May 27, 2008, with even more pomp and circumstance than Senzel did on May 3, 2019. He then proceeded to slash .254/.314/.453, which is not all that different from Senzel’s slash line of .256/.315/.427. Bruce’s slugging, thanks to 21 dingers, is what creates the difference in OPS+ as he notched a 97. Below average but slightly better than Senzel’s mark.
The key thing to note is that scout grades on Senzel’s hitting tool say he’s at a 55 right now (slightly above average) with potential to increase to a 70 (All-Star level). Scouts and those who know firmly believe that Senzel will not only get better, but much better. Which got me to thinking, again. While Bruce is a solid hitter with his share of successes, people who know more about baseball than I do believe Senzel will be better than that. So I started looking around at possible comparisons of guys who had ho-hum rookie campaigns but are now stars. Enter Nolan Arenado.
The Rockies third baseman is widely regarded as the best in the biz at the hot corner. Dude has been an All Star since 2015, has won the Silver Slugger since 2015, and has finished in the top-10 in MVP voting since 2015. Yet when you look at his first full year in the Bigs, despite making the list as one of the top rookies in baseball, his bat was just okay.
Arenado slashed .267/.301/.405 in 133 games (514 plate appearances). Senzel will not reach that amount of chances in 2019, but he will also have to do a whole lot of nothing to drop his OPS down to where Arenado’s ended up in 2013. Yet that is the baseline number, in all three facets of the slash, for Arenado. He got significantly better to the point where he led the NL in dingers 2015, 2016, and 2018. Just because a phenom doesn’t have a rookie year like Cody Bellinger does not doom them to be mediocre for their career.
There are some good similarities to Arenado’s peripherals in 2013 and Senzel’s in 2019. Senzel swings 48% of the time which puts him at the middle of the rookie pack. He offers at pitches outside the strike zone 31% of the time, which is actually 10% less than Arenado’s mark in 2013. The difference lies in Arenado’s ability to make contact, something he did 5% more than Senzel has in his rookie campaign.
Now you’re probably thinking my comparison of Senzel and Arenado is asinine and in no way convinces you that Senzel will get better. The bigger point I am trying to make here is that a great player in today’s game doesn’t necessarily have to hit .800 in his rookie season to prove his future is bright. There are some encouraging points to be gleaned from the statistical comparison of the two when you consider the scout grades of Senzel. As far as him improving his stock, scout grades are the only other thing we can point to aside from blind hope and scouts don’t tend to throw around a grade of 70 for no good reason.
Do not look at this season and figure he will be a dud. Nick Senzel will be a star for the Reds.