Bell facing tough decisions for OF alignment

Starting center-field job up for grabs; Kemp unlikely to play first base

February 18th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds manager David Bell has great corner outfield depth, but he doesn't have a regular center fielder. Determining who will get to play where and sorting out the logjam should be a challenge for Bell in his first season as a skipper in the big leagues.

Five players are in the mix for the three spots -- , , , and top prospect Nick Senzel.

"At some point, we may get to where we have to make tough decisions," Bell said on Monday ahead of Cincinnati's first full-squad workout. "For now, I really do believe it's such a plus to have these guys. I really do believe those things do work themselves out in a lot of different ways."

Bell hasn't tipped his hand on which way he's leaning.

"I'm looking forward to making tough decisions based on the fact that we have a lot of guys who can contribute every single day," Bell said. "That's how I'm looking at it now. It's a plus to have these guys. They'll all want to play. That's how it should be."

The big domino that could decide the rest of the decisions is Senzel. Ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the organization and sixth overall by MLB Pipeline, he is competing for the everyday spot in center field. A natural infielder, Senzel is actively learning a new position.

"That is a factor for sure," Bell said. "He's such an important part of our organization. We all know he has a bright future. It will be important to make the right decision for our team, but also the best decision for him."

Another complication is that Winker is still one of the team's best young hitters and would benefit greatly from getting 500 at-bats this season.

"He does need to continue to develop, but we want him to contribute at that level and as an everyday player," Bell said of Winker. "Again, it's challenging having a lot of guys that can contribute, but I'm confident that it will work out. I really am. He's going to be a big part of what we're doing."

Kemp at first base unlikely

Kemp is a three-time All-Star outfielder. But without a firm spot on the field, as of now, could he be an option to play first base when Joey Votto needs a break? Bell didn't seem keen on that idea.

"We hope Joey plays every day for the most part, but I think there's going to be some thought to making sure he's strong all the way through," Bell said. "Matt Kemp has never played there. I know we talk about moving positions a lot and try to talk about how possible it is because I believe that, but that's a tough thing. At this point in his career, to have never played the position, that would be a big ask."

Senzel changes agents learned on Monday that Senzel has ended his relationship with agent Scott Boras and signed with the Wasserman Group and agent Joel Wolfe. Senzel has been with Boras since he was the second overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, and it was the only meeting he took at the time because some of his teammates were also signing with the Boras Corporation.

"There's no hard feelings. I wanted to see what else was out there," Senzel said. "I found a group that I really like and heard great things about. I made the decision to switch."

Senzel, 23, is expected to make his big league debut in 2019. At some point soon, he could be looking for a multiyear contract.

"I know they've done really good work," Senzel said. "I'm not thinking about that. It was my decision. I felt like it was the best decision at this time to do that."