CINCINNATI -- Injuries slowed Reds top prospect Nick Senzel's express route to the Major Leagues in 2018. Senzel wants to prove he will be ready to be in Cincinnati when the 2019 season opens.Ranked No. 1 in the organization by MLB Pipeline, and No. 6 overall, Senzel endured vertigo in
CINCINNATI -- Injuries slowed Reds top prospect Nick Senzel's express route to the Major Leagues in 2018. Senzel wants to prove he will be ready to be in Cincinnati when the 2019 season opens.
Ranked No. 1 in the organization by MLB Pipeline, and No. 6 overall, Senzel endured vertigo in May and a right index finger fracture in June that required season-ending surgery. After he healed from that procedure, the natural infielder tried the outfield during the instructional league in the fall. That ended when he needed surgery in mid-October to remove bone chips from his left elbow.
"The elbow is good. It was six weeks [last] Tuesday. It was supposed to be a six-week recovery, so it's getting there," Senzel said. "I'd say I'm at about 90 percent. I will start doing baseball activity in the next week or so."
Senzel, 23, has been rehabilitating at the club's Spring Training facility in Goodyear, Ariz. He is expected to be ready to begin swinging a bat by the end of December.
From there, the hopes are that Senzel can have a quasi-normal offseason ahead of camp opening in February. He was cleared to begin lifting weights a couple of weeks ago.
"I'm trying to catch up there. I've had to adjust for sure," Senzel said.
This is a critical juncture for Senzel, who batted .310/.378/.509 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 44 games last season for Triple-A Louisville. He was at shortstop in big league camp during Spring Training, but he played mostly second base for Louisville and some at his natural spot of third base.
With center fielder Billy Hamilton being non-tendered a contract on Friday, it's possible that a place in the lineup has opened for Senzel. During instructional league, he was tutored in the outfield by instructor and Reds great Eric Davis.
"I thought it went good. Me and E.D. hit it off great," said Senzel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. "I've known him since I came to this organization. He makes it as simple as possible. We worked together every day, mainly in center and I worked in left a little bit. It was great practice. Obviously, I didn't get into many games but the more reps out there, the more comfortable I was."
The Reds, led by president of baseball operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall, plan to explore options outside of the organization -- either free agents or via trades. But if the spot is open when camp starts, Senzel has every intention of competing for it.
"I'd like to compete for any spot," Senzel said. "I don't really know the plan. I'm sure we'll sit down and talk, and my agent will talk with Dick, Nick and the new staff about where they think I will be. If it's center field, it's center field. If it's left field, it's left field. If it's kind of all over the place to get some guys days off so I can get in the lineup and some at-bats, it could be that.
"I don't think I will be in a set spot the whole year. Hopefully I can break camp with them and if not, be up soon."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.