In late May, the Cincinnati Reds Utility Man, Nick Senzel, underwent knee surgery that would sideline him for at least four weeks. The term “utility man” is often used to describe Senzel, as he has played centerfield, second base and third base this year for the Reds.
Throughout his collegiate days, Senzel played all over the infield and the Reds drafted him as an infielder. As Senzel progressed through the minor leagues, he was informed by the Reds manager, David Bell, that he was going to be used as a centerfielder in Spring Training of 2019. This was seen as a fairly seamless transition for the young star, as he held all the tools that were necessary to excel as a centerfielder. Senzel was fast, could hit for contact and had a tremendous glove. All of this, combined with the lack of outfield depth that the Reds had in 2018 and 2019, this move made sense. On paper, the switch to outfield would work perfectly for the young former first round pick as well as being best for the Reds.
Now, fast forward two years, after the injuries and changes made within the organization, the question must be asked. Is Nick Senzel better off as an outfielder or an infielder?
Senzel has dealt with a multitude of injuries, most of which have stemmed from the move to being an outfielder. This recent knee injury may be the tipping point in ending the experiment of trying to make Senzel an outfielder. Through one full season and two half seasons in the big leagues, Senzel has missed time with shoulder, ankle, eye and now knee injuries.
Earlier this season, Senzel injured his shoulder making a diving catch. This injury, along with almost all of his others, have seemed to stem directly to being an outfielder.
The heart and hustle of Senzel has never been in question, but it seems his body isn’t capable of handling a full 162 games in the outfield.
Nick SenZational bare-handed play‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/1nqZ2VVcsf
— Bally Sports Cincinnati (@BallySportsCIN) May 18, 2021
Through his entire life, Senzel has almost exclusively been an infielder. In his three years at the University of Tennessee, Senzel never saw time in the outfield. Senzel played 57 games at second base, 45 games at third base and 13 games at short stop.
After being drafted, Senzel was also almost exclusively used as an infielder. Senzel played 233 games in the Reds farm system. Out of those 233 games, 225 of them were spent in the infield.
It is safe to say that Senzel in most familiar and more than likely, most comfortable as an infielder.
When the decision was made to switch Senzel to centerfield, the Reds were in a much different situation than they are now. In 2019, the Reds had close to zero depth in the outfield. They had the newly acquired Yasiel Puig, who would be given the task of playing right field. Beyond that, they had no players that had proven anything at the Major League level. As a result, Senzel was almost forced to have to move to the outfield.
In addition, the Reds had a proven and established infield. This infield featured Joey Votto, Freddy Galvis, Jose Iglesias and Eugenio Suarez. As a result, this left no open spot for Senzel to stay at his natural position.
Now, two years later, things look much, much different. The Reds currently have two MVP caliber outfielders, in Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos. Those two are also paired with the depth of Tyler Naquin, Aristides Aquino and Shogo Akiyama. On the other hand, in the infield, the Reds have struggled with inconsistency and injuries. Suarez is currently experiencing his worst season, posting a slash line of .169/.248/.376. Votto is also in the midst of a rather uncharacteristic season. He is posting a slash line of .231/.322/.455.
As the timetable for Senzel’s return draws closer, the Reds will have to face a challenging delimma. Is Nick Senzel best fit for the future as an outfielder or as an infielder?
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