Reds' Nick Senzel Offers To Play Center Field
LAS VEGAS — Despite having his season waylaid by injuries, top Reds prospect Nick Senzel is still on the cusp of the major leagues. Now all that stands in his way are Eugenio Suarez at third base and Scooter Gennett at second base.
Senzel saw some time in the outfield during instructional league, but the experience was minimized by surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.
Even so, new Reds manager David Bell said on Monday that he expects Senzel to make an impact in big leagues in 2019, possibly at a number of positions.
“I know he's preparing himself to play center field. He told me that when he walked by me (at RedsFest). That's him. He's confident. He's an athlete,” Bell said. “I think he's capable of doing whatever we do.
“But it's our job to put him in a good position, especially breaking into the major leagues. He's going to contribute. He's going to contribute a lot. And good for him. He has the versatility to be able to have a great game and an option to play multiple positions.”
Senzel played both third base and shortstop in college at Tennessee, and he saw time at both those positions, plus second base, in limited action in 2018 at Triple-A Louisville. He did all that while producing an .887 OPS over 171 at-bats before a broken finger ended his regular season.
Center field, if the Reds choose to take Senzel up on his offer to learn the position, might provide the prospect his clearest path to playing time. That’s especially true after the team non-tendered Billy Hamilton earlier this month and watched as he signed a one-year deal with the Royals.
Spring training would provide an excellent opportunity for Senzel to get repetitions in center, but how much time would be necessary before his defense would be up to major league quality?
“I think it's individual. I think each players development takes on a life of its own. With a talent like Nick, I think it's a lot less than other players,” Bell said. “I also believe that when players reach the major leagues their development is not over. And I love the challenge of being able to continue that development.
“He's going to be with us, and he's going to play a lot. He may play multiple positions, he may settle in at one position. Eventually he will do that. But we see in today's game, to have that versatility, to be able to play multiple positions, you can give him regular at-bats, regular playing time just to give him experience.”
Speaking of multiple positions, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said during Monday’s media session that Scott Kingery should be prepared to bounce around the diamond again. The team just acquired Jean Segura from Seattle to play shortstop and have Maikel Franco at third base and Cesar Hernandez at second.
That leaves Kingery, who signed a six-year, $24 million contract toward the end of spring training last year, in a utility role.
"Scott Kingery is one of the toughest individuals I've ever been around,” Kapler said. "So much so that when I called Scott and said, ‘Hey, we just acquired this shortstop, like you're most likely going to move around the diamond again,’ he said, ‘Okay, I get it.’ And that's a challenge for a young player who just finished his first full season in the major leagues.
"So, look, I think Scott Kingery can handle anything. I don't think it's too tough for him. And I think last year was a major challenge. And in some ways, I think that there were some moments where he struggled as a result. At the same time, like I'm not worried about his ability to tackle this. I wasn't worried about his ability to tackle it last year.”
Kingery played two games at shortstop professionally before playing the bulk of his rookie season at the position in 2018.
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After watching Blake Snell flourish in 2018, the Rays might get a boost late in 2019 from their most promising arm still in the minor leagues. Righthander Brent Honeywell blew out his elbow in spring training and missed the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
"We know how special Brent is, and how valuable and what we view in our organization. But if we're going to do Brent right, we have to let him go through the rehab process, not rush him," said Rays manager Kevin Cash.
"Knowing his personality, he's going to want to make a club out of spring training. That's not going to happen. We've got to do it right. Our medical staff is second to none. And I know Brent understands that. But he's a motivated player, and he wants to be a part of something that we all view as pretty special right now.
"We'll do everything we can to calm him down, let him go through the process to make sure he's a hundred percent healthy and get him through his rehabs and get him to affiliate, get some innings, and hopefully he does help us.”
Cash said he expected Honeywell to land with a minor league affiliate sometime in May or June.