Where does Senzel's defensive future lie?

Rookie standout done for 2019, boasts positional flexibility entering '20

September 14th, 2019

PHOENIX -- As the Reds absorbed Thursday’s news that rookie center fielder Nick Senzel’s season is prematurely over because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder, eventually they will have to determine how he moves forward as a player.

Does Senzel remain in center field? Or, should he return to his baseball roots as an infielder -- namely at second base? Such a move could mean less wear and tear on his arm.

“It hasn’t been discussed what’s better for a shoulder,” Reds manager David Bell said Friday. “He’s so young that hopefully his shoulder -- he gets through this and that won’t be a factor at all on what position he plays. I’m expecting a full recovery.”

Senzel, 24, batted .256/.315/.427 in 104 games this season after his May 3 promotion from Triple-A Louisville. He impressed with his hitting approach, which included a challenging midseason change in his stance that saw his production dip over his final 34 games.

But where Senzel really stood out was how quickly he made the transition to playing center field -- which began in earnest during Spring Training.

“There’s a bigger question there,” Bell said. “He’s done really well this year for his first year in center field, much better than we probably should have expected. He’s been really good. We know he can do that. The advantage for him, and for us, is that we know he can play infield too. Who knows what happens? I think it’ll depend on how the whole roster comes together. As of right now, he’s a center fielder unless something changes.”

There could be changes in the middle infield this offseason. Shortstop Jose Iglesias can be a free agent after the season. If Iglesias doesn’t return, second baseman Freddy Galvis could shift over to shortstop. Claimed off waivers on Aug. 12, Galvis has a $5.5 million club option ($1 million buyout) for 2020, but it’s not a guarantee that option will get picked up after he has struggled following a hot start with Cincinnati.

There’s also the question of what the Reds do with Jose Peraza, who lost significant playing time this season. The Reds have also taken a closer look at rookie Josh VanMeter, who has played second base often, but can also play first and third base and the outfield. Cincinnati doesn’t have a ready-to-go natural center fielder in-house that could replace Senzel next season.

Chase Field turf

The Reds got their first look at Chase Field in 2019 on Friday after the facility was converted from natural grass to synthetic turf in the offseason. Players were taking a look at it as they stepped on the field during batting practice.

Bell didn’t expect any issues.

“What took some getting used to was coming here in the past. It was so fast,” Bell said. “This might actually be a little bit more predictable.

“We got in really late last night [from Seattle]. I was tempted to not do anything at all. But we got here in time to go out there, at least it’s optional. We are taking batting practice, [and fielding] ground balls and fly balls. We’ll get as comfortable with it as we can.”