January 30: Williams doubled down on his comments regarding Senzel in an appearance on MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley show (Twitter link, with audio), voicing a strong preference to keep him in the organization after what the club felt was a promising rookie campaign.
“We had to go into this offseason, knowing that we wanted to add impact, we had to be open to trades,” said Williams. “We certainly talked about a lot of impact players out there. And when you’re going to acquire an impact player, a name like Nick Senzel is going to come up. But our preference all along was to spend money and add to the club without touching our prospects, and we’ve been able to do that.”
January 29: Cincinnati’s signing of Nick Castellanos to a four-year contract this week further deepened the Reds’ outfield mix and opened up some questions about a potential trade of former No. 2 overall pick Nick Senzel. President of baseball operations Dick Williams, however, threw some cold water on recent rumors that popped up regarding Senzel, telling Bobby Nightengale Cincinnati Enquirer that he expects Senzel to be on the Reds’ roster come Opening Day.
“He’s an impact, young offensive player,” Williams said of Senzel. “They don’t come along very often. The flexibility he brings to the club, attitude he brings. At this point, we see him as very much a part of a winning, championship team here.”
That’s not a firm declaration that Senzel is wholly unavailable — there’s a point at which any team would budge on virtually any player — but these types of on-record comments from top-level executives aren’t often walked back, either. That Williams felt strongly enough to make such a statement is certainly notable and significantly dampens other organizations’ hopes of landing a player that just a year ago was considered to be among baseball’s 10 best prospects before an injury-shortened 2019 campaign.
Shortened by injuries or not, there were some positives for the 24-year-old Senzel in his debut campaign. He didn’t set the game ablaze like some other vaunted prospects have in recent years, but few minor leaguers graduate to the Majors and hit the ground running at a full spring. Senzel hit .256/.315/.427 with a dozen homers and 14 steals (in 19 tries) through 414 trips to the plate. For a player who had finger and elbow surgery in 2018 and battled ankle troubles last spring, it was a respectable first showing, though the organization (and Senzel himself) surely hope there’s more in the tank.
Perhaps most encouragingly, Senzel seemed to take to center field quite naturally. The converted third baseman was learning the position largely on the fly — particularly after missing the 2018 Arizona Fall League due to the aforementioned elbow procedure — but posted passable marks in Defensive Runs Saved (-1), Ultimate Zone Rating (-1.2) and Outs Above Average (0). For a position that was mostly foreign to him, Senzel seemingly proved that he has the athleticism to handle the spot — perhaps even at an above-average (or better) level once he gains more experience.
Notably, despite surgery that could place third baseman Eugenio Suarez on the injured list to open the year, Williams again emphasized that Senzel wouldn’t be lining up at third base. Nor, it seems, will Senzel be considered an option at shortstop. The Reds haven’t made a marquee addition there, but Williams voiced confidence in Freddy Galvis and a reluctance to have Senzel try his hand at the spot after undergoing shoulder surgery of his own late last summer. “That’s the most difficult throw on the diamond to make,” Williams said in a nod to Senzel’s most recent surgery.
For those keeping score, that’s three surgeries for Senzel in just over a year’s time, which will prompt some to question the 24-year-old’s durability. That, however, doesn’t appear to be a substantial concern for the Reds at this time, and the aforementioned depth the team possesses gives them plenty of alternatives in the event that Senzel’s injury troubles continue. Offseason signing Shogo Akiyama has long been a quality center fielder in Japan, and the Reds have Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino, Phil Ervin, Travis Jankowski and Rule 5 pick Mark Payton as other outfield options on the 40-man roster.