Reds top prospect Nick Senzel lost much of the 2018 season due to injury, and it seems another health issue will cost him an opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League. Senzel tells Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’ll undergo surgery to remove two bone spurs from his left (non-throwing) elbow and be sidelined for up to six weeks as a result.
It’s the latest setback for Senzel in a year that has featured all too much unwelcome injury trouble. The former No. 2 overall draft pick (2016) was out for nearly half the 2018 season owing to vertigo symptoms and a fractured finger that required surgical repair earlier this summer. On the plus side, Senzel still expects to be ready to go when Spring Training rolls around.
Still, Senzel’s absence from the AFL isn’t without consequence. With Eugenio Suarez now locked up as the Reds’ long-term third baseman following last spring’s seven-year extension, and Scooter Gennett possibly in line for an extension of his own, the Reds have shifted Senzel from the infield to the outfield. Senzel got some outfield work during instructional league play, and there’s general optimism that he’s athletic enough to handle the outfield; farm director Shawn Pender told C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic yesterday (Twitter link), “I don’t think there’s a position on the field he couldn’t play.”
Nonetheless, the AFL would’ve given Senzel the opportunity to accrue some valuable outfield experience in advance of Spring Training 2019. “…I wanted to get out in the outfield and do some reps,” Senzel tells Nightengale. “That was the plan to play in the Fall League. I couldn’t further risk more injury because I knew my elbow has been bothering me for the last 10 months. I played through it for as long as I could. “
To his credit, the 23-year-old Senzel didn’t play like someone whose swing was hampered by elbow pain. He raked at a .310/.378/.509 clip through 193 plate appearances in his first exposure to Triple-A earlier this season, despite the fact that he was facing considerably older competition. That marked a followup from Senzel’s terrific age-22 season in 2017, during which he hit a combined .321/.391/.514 while splitting the year between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.
Given his offensive upside, it’s not surprising to see Senzel’s name included in most top 10 overall prospect rankings from around the industry. The upcoming procedure will deprive him of some outfield experience, potentially delaying his path to the big leagues, but it still seems likely that he’ll have the opportunity to impact the Reds at the Major League level in 2019.