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.

13 Responses

  1. Mason Red

    He is a good player with potential. He’s not a centerpiece but a possible building block. Unfortunately he’s on a team without many building blocks at least at the moment.

  2. Tv

    Cant believe anybody is even talking this. This is the reds problem. They don’t develop. The play it like a video game with matchups like crazy. They give up on guybls after 1 or 2 years. Countless guys get good at 24-27. Think scootet, Swarez, Phillips just to name a few. They fail to develop because they only use todays numbers not any common sense. Math only works if you have the sense to use it correctly. They do not. Like giving scrub nonprospect playing time over a 25 year old paraza who got 200 hits. Its like their baseball dictionary is missing the term sophomore slump. Just because their are some great young players does not mean they will all be good after 10 abs

  3. Jon

    I have to disagree with your statement that the Reds give up on players after one or two years. If anything, the Reds give failing players too many chances, often at the expense of the team as a whole. Names that come to mind over the past decade include Drew Stubbs, Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler, Wandy Peralta, and yes, Jose Peraza. Even this season, the Reds continued to run David Hernandez out and give him chance after chance to improve before finally releasing him. The same was true several years ago with JJ Hoover.

    In my opinion, the Reds’ failure to develop players comes from a major deficiency in their minor league system, especially in their scouting department. I know they made changes last year, but results won’t be seen at the major league level until years down the road.

  4. Bigbill

    Toughest part about the Reds situation is that his numbers Are extremely close to Votto’s numbers this year. Projected enough at bats and Senzel would have more Hrs and even on doubles.
    I keep seeing articles about worrying about this player or that player yet everytime I read anything it just glosses over that we get very little production from a hitting oriented defensive position. Every projection for futurists just says Votto will be at first.

    The reds need to either start platooning him with a power RH bat or look to do whatever it takes to get out from under his contract before it is. Complete disaster.

    Think Homer Bailey times five.

    • Bigbill

      I hope not as well but the last two years should be a warning of what is to come. New to treat him for the player he is today as gar as where in the order he hits a number of at bats and not who he was.

  5. The other JB

    I’m confident that Senzel will be a star , don’t write VanMeter off either and I believe Aquino has a chance . Rookie and veteran players are going to struggle, it’s a tough game .

  6. Bigbill

    Van meter, Aquino, Senzel, Suarez, between igleisas and Galvis, Winker/Ervin on the field. I think O’Grady looks interesting.
    Need catching help and someone to reduce Votto’s at bats as a rh power hitter.

    Pitching: Starters: Castillo, Bauer, Gray, Gausman?, Disco

    Pretty solid.

    Delivery: Garrett, Lorenzen, Stephenson, Mahle, Kuhnel

    Need a closer and another LH reliever.

    I would trade Raisel Iglesias and see what I can get as far as A power rh bat and some bullpen help.

  7. Centerfield

    Senzel will be fine. He is a guy who expects himself to improve and he will. Let’s get Van Meter out of the OF or send him to the instructional league to learn how to play the position. This isn’t his fault. Bell persists in playing people out of position. I was watching Money Ball the other day and was struck by the scene where Billy B. starts to trade away players so Art Howe can’t play them.

  8. Still a Red

    Bruce had his merits, but I hope Senzel proves a better offensive player. I wouldn’t expect him to be an Arenado. I’ll settle for a Pete Rose.

  9. Chris Holbert

    Senzel will excel, he has at every level. Part of his issue, I believe, is the Reds will not give him a position and say, this is your position for as long as you are a Red, now do go do your thing…..3B, 2B, now CF, enough already. Give him a position and fill in around him instead of trying to fit him in. He is your best prospect.

    • greenmtred

      Has he played a single game for the Reds at any position other than center? At the MLB level, I mean.

  10. TR

    Senzel should return to the hitting approach he had the first half of this season where he was getting on base as the lead off man. And his natural position is in the infield. He’s a part of the Reds next contending team.