Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face
With stars to fill my dreams
I’m a traveler of both time and space
To be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race
This world has seldom seen
And talk of days for which they sit and wait
All will be revealed

I’m having a Led Zeppelin moment, letting the sun beat down upon my face in Section 134, watching the Reds lose again to the Dodgers, with the elders all around me adorned in our faded red as we sit and wait for future stars like Elly De La Cruz and, of course, Hunter, to fill our dreams. And I’m thinking about Cody Bellinger, his smiling visage displayed on the scoreboard in front of me. He won the NL MVP award in 2019, edging out Christian Yelich, who won the award the year before, and Anthony Rendon. He’s a shell of that player today, injury and a slow recovery stripping his OPS+ numbers in 2021 and 2022 to a paltry 44 and 80, respectively. Yelich, too, has fallen to earth. The Rendon contract has turned out to be another disaster for owner Artie Moreno and the Angels, following in the footsteps of B.J. Upton and Albert Pujols.

It portends to be another cruel, cruel summer for the boys of said summer who ply their trade with the bat. The baseball hasn’t helped hitters. I’m convinced all those balls forlorn and forgotten during the pandemic season of 2020 have found their way into a mix of whatever formula MLB has concocted, having purchased Rawlings and begun applying its weird science to the ball’s construction. While Angels pitcher Michael Lorenzen ( you remember him) has called out MLB for their quality control, it remains true that baseball has become a pitcher’s game.

The strike zone has turned into a witches’ brew for big league hitters; and not just for the elders like Votto. The batting average of the average major leaguer is .242. Velocity has turned the game on its ear. Stringing together hits in an inning has become a relic of the past, and hitters have adjusted accordingly, waiting for the right moment to do damage with a single swing of the bat. Right now, pitchers wield the hammer of the gods over batters not named Aaron Judge. And they are using it.

As I watch Nick Senzel work his way back to being the player he was touted to be when drafted #2 in the 2016 MLB draft out of Tennessee, I can’t help but think how some have been unable to stretch their eyes, widen their vision to see the bigger picture.

If hitters are under the gun more than ever by velocity and science, if MVP hitters can fall into funks, the proportions of which stretch from a season’s early morning sun to the falling leaves of autumn, cannot Nick Senzel be forgiven for taking his seat on the struggle bus while he searches for the barrel of the bat during his fleeting and erratic time as a major league baseball player?

A year before the Reds selected Senzel with the overall 2nd pick of the first round on the amateur draft, Dansby Swanson was selected 1st in the 2015 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since he began playing regularly in 2017—and omitting the pandemic-shortened season of 2020, Swanson’s OPS+ numbers—68, 87, 89 and 97—were hardly the look of a future star. His middling WAR numbers before this season are largely a product of his plus defense at shortstop.

Like Swanson, Senzel’s worth has largely been a product of his defense. Unlike Swanson, Nick has had far fewer opportunities to right the ship. He’s had barely 800 plate appearances in his career, while Dansby has amassed over 3000. Those thousands of marches to the batters box are now beginning to pay off for Swanson and the Braves.

But, Richard, Nick Senzel is fragile, you say. He cannot stay on the field. He’s 27 years old. And all that has been true to date. The bigger picture is this: you don’t easily give up on a 2nd overall draft pick. Those picks at the very top of the draft are the closest thing to a sure thing that exists in a selection process that is anything but a sure thing. The price for Nick Senzel was a season of watching a fading Jay Bruce, Skip Schumaker and Burke Badenhop take the field while the team trudged its way to 68 wins. The new draft lottery implemented in the recent collective bargaining agreement will make securing another pick in the same area code of the draft Senzel was selected much, much more difficult moving forward.

So, give up on Senzel? Give up on a player who marched through the minor leagues, showcasing his talent at each level? Ship him off and watch him blossom with the Red Sox, the Marlins, or god forbid—the St. Louis Cardinals?

Jonathan India has had his own struggles coming back from injury. He admits that when he first came back he just couldn’t see the ball. Tuesday night’s home run was the first time he really could see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand, according to the Reds second baseman. India was once offered up in trade packages by almost every Reds fan playing the trade rumor game. A portion of the fan base seemed willing to give up on the Florida Gator before he even had a chance to prove himself at the big league level. His rookie season has changed all that. Jonathan lives in our hearts now. Nick? Not so much.

Some seem done with Nick Senzel. Others waffle with every night’s box score. For me, these are now the days to sit and wait. Wait for Nick Senzel.

For all will be revealed.

37 Responses

  1. Luke J

    Agree. I’m still in the camp of refusing to give up on Senzel. I can see the talent and see the progression. I can see him working hard to put it all together. And I recognize the bumps in the road that would have delayed any elite prospect’s development. I also don’t buy into the “fragile” argument. It’s a cop out. We are already starting to see the results and he is looking good lately. I’m excited to continue to watch him and root for him.

    • Kevin H

      I agree and let’s all remember hitting a baseball at that level is much harder than it appears…

  2. Old Big Ed

    Well put, as usual.

    I myself am a Dedicated Waffler on Senzel. I count him as an uber-dud after a cold streak, and then convince myself that he’s finally turned the corner after 3 good days.

    Billy Hamilton had a career OPS with the Reds of .631. As of now, Senzel’s OPS this year is .592, and it was .604 in 2020 and .638 in 2021. He is Billy Hamilton without the dazzle, which — on paper — makes him about as valuable as a Dann Billardello rookie card. However, by observation and advanced metrics, Senzel has a lot more in his bat than Hamilton ever did.

    The Reds have 3 more years of control left with him, and they don’t have a centerfielder in the minors who has earned a shot to replace him. Senzel will get his chances, but it seems like it is getting close to nut-cutting time for him.

    I will say this — over the last week or so, it feels like Senzel is actually having fun, when in times past the game sometimes seemed like a chore to him. I’m going just root for him for to prove my skepticism to be unfounded.

  3. LarkinPhillips

    I root for Senzel and anyone can get tagged as “injured prone” after a few bad breaks. What concerns me more, is his complete lack of power this year. People will point to the ball of the centerfield wall 2 nights ago, but the wind was blowing out at Wrigley that night. Hitting one ball of the wall isn’t power. He has 4 HRs in the last 3 years (approx. 350 ABs in that time). He had 12 HRs his first season in 375 ABs. I like the opposite field approach he has this year, but the lack of power is not a trend I hope he continues.

    • Luke J

      He had a streak of 7 fly balls there a few weeks ago that would have been home runs in more than half the mlb ballparks, but they all ended up as outs. The power is there and will come out when he’s rolling.

  4. Klugo

    Starting to hit for average. Next step: slug. Looks like he has the body to do it eventually. He has enough speed to fake it for now.

  5. David

    The Reds need more veteran presence! Trade Senzel NOW! Is Skip Schumacher still available?

    Seriously, I know we all want to fix the Reds. I feel kind of bad for Nick, he didn’t ask to be injured as much as he has.
    I think Nick still has a promising future. If I were running the Reds, I would ask him to move back to 3rd Base, his natural position. Drury plays First most days, and Votto is either a DH or plays first a couple times a week, and encourage him to retire (work out a payoff).
    How does all this relate to Nick? If we can “fix” the Reds, then Nick might look more attractive to the Reds, doing what he does best; play third base and hit.
    If Nick can stay healthy and not get hurt, and actually put together a full season in the ML, maybe we might think differently about him (one way or another). He seems to lately be on a hitting hot streak.
    Go Nick! (and forget about Skip Schumacher, he’s retired).

    • Chris

      Why would you want to put an elite defensive CFer back to 3rd base, especially when we have about 4 or 5 guys who can play 3rd base on this team? Don’t answer because of injuries, because guys get hurt playing all positions, and much of Senzel’s injuries from vertigo on were not because he was in CF.

      • David

        Nick Senzel is a fine athlete, but I don’t know if you would call him an “elite” centerfielder.
        I’ve seen a “few” elite centerfielders for the Reds:
        Eric Davis, Cesar Geronimo, Mike Cameron, and yes, Billy Hamilton.

        Nick has worked hard to learn the position, but maybe not an elite Centerfielder.

  6. LDS

    Any article starting with Kashmir immediately has my attention. Regarding Senzel, I’d like to see him do well but I’m extremely skeptical that he’ll ever realize his talents in a Reds uniform. I blame the Reds’ coaches, Ward & Zinter, for messing him up in the first place (and probably Aquino as well). Maybe heading back to 3rd would help but realistically another team may be in his best interests. Maybe Krall will waive him and let someone that knows what they are doing, pick him up.

    • DataDumpster

      I think that Senzel needs to go to another team for his own sake and move back to 3B. I am a fan, not a baseball manager, but it seems commonsense that any player going to the MLB is going to struggle mightily in batting but probably much less so in fielding if kept in the same position(s) that he had previously excelled in. Now, if he has to change position and quickly produce to MLB quality all the while probably changing much of his batting approach, then that player has some real issues to deal with. Ergo the poor numbers, loss of focus or confidence, fatigue, etc. that lead to injuries. This team seems to relish in fooling around with positions, batting orders, and assignments constantly, not surprised it backfires so often. We have (what?) five 3B on this team. See if Senzel has some modest trade value, and reduce that ridiculous number and keep Drury as one of the few good opportunities to add to the existing 2 man batting core.

      • LDS

        Couldn’t agree more. But Bell has mentioned in the past that he likes “flexibility”

      • David

        If Senzel played as he was scouted, he might be an “elite” 3rd baseman.

        Yes, the Reds have a lot of guys that can play 3rd base. Alternately, I have read here (from other commenters) that the Reds need a 3rd baseman.
        So color me a little….confused.

      • LDS

        All part of the Reds “development strategy “, like Barrero to OF

  7. MBS

    I wouldn’t consider myself a waffler. I am an optimist by nature, but the optimism for Senzel has faded, but my eyes aren’t blind, he’s been a better hitter as of late. I’ll give that props, but only sustained performance makes me a believer again.

  8. Rednat

    best case scenario is Nick really blossoms into a solid lead off guy. his base running is getting better. although still gets terrible jumps trying to steal second. i like the strategy of trying to hit grounders to the left side of the infield and legging them out for hits. i jUST HOPE he doesn’t try to “bulk up” to try to hit more homers.

    ideally Senzel leads off and you can then move India down to the 3 or 5 hole.

    i agree with your assessment Richard. it is a pitcher’s game now. the only way to win is to hit home runs. if your team has an owner that can afford alot of home run hitters you are golden. if your teams owner cannot afford to buy homeruns, you are in a lot of trouble. no alternative way to win like the 1985 Cardinals.

    • Old Big Ed

      Except that the Mets are 20th in HRs and the Padres are 24th in HRs, yet both are among the 5 teams that are 15 games over .500. I will concede that hitting 280 HRs like the Yankees are on pace to do is a big plus, but much of that is due to a Polo Grounds-like rightfield porch, plus two outsized guys in Judge and Stanton.

      The softening of the ball, and the enlargement of playing fields such as Baltimore, are harbingers of change on that. There will always be a place for bat-on-ball skills and speed.

      If a team can put guys on base, catch the ball, run the bases well and pitch, it will be a tough team to beat in the playoffs.

      • Roger Garrett

        Yep and lets get real its a young man’s game.Basic fundamental baseball wins lots of games at all levels.Could be real baseball is making a come back.

  9. Stiv

    I decided to look at the top ten in the 2016 draft. ended up going all the way to 20. Gavin Lux was 20, probably has the best stats. But look at his supporting cast. But there are no position players who have broken out and looked like superstars. Other that a couple of pitchers the top 20 looks really disappointing. So maybe we should just take a breath and see how Mr. Senzel can perform if he has a long healthy stretch. If he cant stay on the field then it may be time to move on. But I believe that the sample size is still not large enough to make a correct determination .

    • Old Big Ed

      The 2016 draft was not top-heavy. There were some good players who came out of it, but none (except probably Luxe) who were first rounders. Good hitters include Bryan Reynolds (59th player taken), Pete Alonson (61st), Bo Bichette (66th) and Tommy Edman (196th). Pitchers included Zac Gallen (106), Corbin Burnes (111), Shane Bieber (122) and Tony Gonsolin (9th round).

      Picking Senzel made sense, and it still may work out.

  10. Roger Garrett

    Senzel has fought injury and had to learn a new position and has been jerked around like a puppet yet he we are and he seems to be having fun.Always will be those who point out what he isn’t doing such as not hitting for power yet worship and praise older guys that aren’t even league average after thousands of at bats.I say just let him play and lets see around this time next year.He is not the Reds savior nor should he be expected to be.Reds have bigger issues then what to do with Senzel right now.If we can and did put up with Billy for 5 years who played with some good players we can put up with Senzel for another year

    • MBS

      Don’t take this the wrong way, but the “jerking around” of Senzel is very overblown. They moved him to one of the easiest spots on the field if you have speed. Senzel has speed, and no one groaned about B. Hamilton or E. Davis, being converted to CF, because they had the physical tools to do so. At this point we have nothing to lose by playing Senzel everyday in 22. Let’s hope his recent streak is more than a streak.

      • Old Big Ed

        I agree. Good players can change positions. I feel the same about the narrative that the Reds tried to change his swing and thereby “jerked him around.” Senzel swings the bat, not any coach, and the results are his and not any coach’s. These same coaches didn’t “jerk around” Votto or India or Stephenson, but they somehow ruined Senzel?

        You can blame football coaches for bad play calling, bad defenses, etc. Football coaches dictate what the players are supposed to do. But this ain’t football. Baseball at its essence is one-on-one. The coach (and hitting coach especially) merely offers some tips and advice. The pitcher throws the ball and owns the results, and the hitter swings and owns the results.

      • greenmtred

        MBS and OBE: Your comments are great. I haven’t given up on Senzel. The Reds don’t have a clear replacement, and he’s under control and has time to turn his athletic ability into consistent performance.

  11. Indy Red Man

    Senzel has been pretty pesky lately with the infield hits and perfecting reaching by catchers interference. Let him play everyday and see if he can drive the occasional ball. See if he can last? I like Almora, but Nick’s got more ceiling then Almora. One could probably start on a contender but not both. Let’em play and see what happens. I’ll probably move Pham and play Fairchild too. Or Barrero and move Drury to LF.

    This season was over in April. What else is there to do but evaluate guys? I hope they cut Moose and move on from him as well.

    • Roger Garrett

      I’m with you Indy.Pham is just in the way and is holding up more of the sorting.Moose and Pham gone makes us so much younger and athletic especially with Barrero and Fairchild taking their spots.Biggest thing it gets rid of 2 vets that Bell can’t use.

  12. Old-school

    Ive been president of the nick Senzel fan club for years. I resigned my post this year but still root for him . His 2019 numbers with diubles and home runs great and looked like an elite hitter

    I dont why hes not barreling baseballs but with a flawed roster and a 100 loss team, a funny baseball, Some trending numbers looking good- send him out there every day.

  13. Roger Garrett

    Lineups posted and Moose is back with Schrock in right and the new guy behind the plate who obviously has never caught Ashcraft.Works for me especially Shrock getting some at bats.

  14. Bill J

    It amazes me how each of us have players we want to have an opportunity to play and others we want out of the lineup. In all honesty every player is a prospect at the beginning of the year. Sometimes we just have to hold our hats on and see what happens.

  15. pinson343

    Very strong article, excellent reply yo fans who want Senzel traded. I want to see him in the lineup every day for the rest of the season.
    Then, as you say, “all will be revealed”.

  16. DataDumpster

    Now, for the real experts, how does Senzel manage to get so many Catcher’s Interference. Seems like a parlor trick of sorts with a late slanted swing. Or, could be a unique skill but somehow I think a pretty nasty situation could arise against someone like Craig Counsell or other teams if this is impactful to a meaningful game. Is there enough definition on this rule to challenge the call?

  17. Oldtimer

    George Foster played all or part of six MLB seasons from 1969 through 1974. Half Giants, half Reds.

    He played in 330 games. Hit 27 HR. Had 125 RBI. Those numbers are COMBINED from those six years. Averaged 55 games, 4.5 HR, 21 RBI per year.

    The next four seasons, he played in 594 games. Hit 144 HR. Had 468 RBI. COMBINED from those four years. Averaged 148 games, 38 HR, 117 RBI per year.

    Patience pays off sometimes.

  18. Mark Moore

    I’m still in Nick’s camp. I’m hoping he can keep up the most recent trend and stay a Red. I also much prefer him to be a singles and gap-shot guy to one who smacks it over the fence. Frankly, I’ve seen way more than enough of the 2-outcome players. HR’s generally bore me if we don’t have guys getting on base and hustling in front of those dingers. Plus, we’ve seen quite a bit of what this “dead ball” is doing.

    Keep at it, field CF well, and stay lean and fast. Good piece, Richard.

  19. VaRedsFan

    If they were contending, then Nick is probably a liability in the lineup, but since they aren’t, they might as well stick with him, and maybe he can evolve. Nothing to lose.

    If he’s not going to have power, then he can’t bat .240 with OBP of .299. He hits so many ground balls, which is good if you’re going oppo, like he has been….Not so much if he is pulling it on the ground. He’s gotten several infield hits in his recent streak….some could be called errors…..but hey, they all count.

    If you watch him swing, He doesn’t load on his back leg at all. No leg kick, or toe tap. Just a pivot, with a lot arms. Thus no power. That’s fine….there’s more than 1 way to skin a cat. Singles and doubles are great…he just needs to bat .280+ and .350+ OBP

  20. KathyB

    You are good at waiting, Richard. I’m kinda snakebit at this point. Not by Nick, just by the team that isn’t a team. I can take brief glimpses and hope for the best, but your reasoned perspective helps. Thank you for that.