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:
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.