The key to the Cincinnati Reds winning a World Series lies with Nick Senzel. Whether Senzel is in a Reds uniform or not when it happens is still the key to their success. He could easily be the player of the decade for this team or the key trading chip in acquiring the player that brings a championship back to Cincinnati for the first time in over 30 years.
By all accounts almost anyone will tell you the future of this team revolves around Nick Senzel. It’s not hard to believe. On pure athletic ability alone I feel like I haven’t seen a talent like his in a Reds uniform since Barry Larkin. A natural third basemen, through college at Tennessee, he did everything he could to get on this roster as quick as possible.
When the Reds noticed they had a star in Suarez, they asked Senzel to move to second base. In 2018, while Scooter Gennett played an All Star season at second base, Senzel failed to make it to the majors due to an April injury that ended his season. Knowing that second base wasn’t going to be an option in 2019, Senzel learned to play center field at the major league level in just a few months. Not the easiest position to learn overnight let alone be the everyday starter.
Rather than be up front with what they were trying to do with Senzel, the Reds manipulated his service time by not having him on the 2019 Opening Day roster. While we were subjected to a month of Schebler struggling to hit .125, the Reds gained another year of contract control. The Reds would have Nick Senzel under team control through 2026. Senzel was born to hit a baseball. He did it throughout college and all levels of minor leagues. Nick looked, at worst, average at his newest position when he was finally called up May. Let’s not forget he only played 52 games in AAA.
He looked like a pro from his first game. Excellent plate discipline, underrated speed, and passed the eye test for anyone who questioned his hype. While his rookie season was cut short, he had a slash line of .285/.346/.475 entering August. Quickly after they (by they” I mean a hitting coach that is no longer here) asked him to switch his stance and he began dealing with injury and fell off quickly in August before having his season cut short due to injury. Nick Senzel has shown amazing athleticism, grit, and determination to succeed at every level.
The big glaring weak spot on the 2020 Cincinnati Reds roster is without a doubt shortstop. If the Reds do nothing else between now and Opening Day I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for Senzel to be the Cincinnati Reds starting shortstop for the season. Senzel has knocked down any barrier the organization has put in his path. For a natural third basemen I think shortstop would be much more comfortable than an overcrowded outfield. Anyone who knows anything about him has called him the future of this franchise and who this team will be built around this decade. Sports Illustrated just recently published an article predicting the Reds as the 2023 World Series champions led by Nick Senzel. If he’s with this team come Opening Day I’ll still be excited for what he has to offer this franchise. I have little doubt he won’t live up to his hype.
The Reds have been one of the most aggressive teams in baseball, this offseason. Signing Mike Moustakas, Wade Miley, and Shogo Akiyama to shore up their weak spots. Everyone knows that the biggest below-average position on the current roster is shortstop, with Freddy Galvis as the current starter. This offseason hot stove has been a four alarm house fire of rumors. The Reds are still attached to rumors with Marvell Ozuna which would add another person in an outfield of Senzel, Winker, Shogo, Aquino, and Ervin. The writing is on the wall for Senzel. The team has been attached to trade rumors with Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa. Fans have added Corey Seager and Trevor Story to that potential wishlist. The Lindor rumor listed Nick Senzel specifically as a trade target for the Indians. All of these players on the wishlist are projected for at least a 3.9 fWAR or greater by Fangraphs for the 2020 season.
In order for the Reds to become a clear cut favorite in the NL Central and for a serious run deep in the playoffs they MUST get one of these superstars. However, all of these superstars I just listed come with one issue. They are ALL free agents come 2022. Trading Senzel would not mortgage the future as much as a larger package of prospects, in lieu of him, would cause.
Senzel however comes with his own baggage. Senzel’s last two seasons have been cut short by season ending injuries. One was to the index finger on his throwing hand and to repair a torn labrum. This doesn’t include his continued battle with vertigo which has sidelined him in the past. More recently he signed with Scott Boras Corporation to be his new agent. I think this signals that when he becomes a free agent he intends to get paid like all of the other big fish. The Reds have already muddied that water by messing with his service time in 2019. Will they be willing to write a big check to have him be the face of the franchise for the rest of the decade when the time comes if he lives up to his hype? Do the Reds continue to base their future on hope or proven talent by trading for a current superstar. If, by a miracle, there might be a way for the Reds to trade for one of these players without giving up Senzel that would be epic too. The Indians did just give up Kluber for next to nothing in return so who knows.
I personally would prefer to keep Senzel. I’d be more inclined to trade Winker, prospects, and major league ready talent. However if need be I would do it in a heartbeat if it meant our best shot at a World Series. We as Reds fans are in desperate need of October baseball.
Locked On Reds Mailbag
You’ve got Reds questions and Clay Snowden has Reds answers!
What do you think Tyler Stephenson? What do you think of the future of the catching position looks like? (@transredsfan)
Stephenson is one of my favorite prospects. Good offensive catchers are hard to come by. Since struggling earlier in his career with injuries, Stephenson has put together strong offensive years. I would bet he is the 2020 Opening Day starter if all goes as planned. Behind him, the Reds are slim in organizational depth. 2016 second round pick Chris Okey has struggled at every level. Barnhart and Casali are both pretty good options, but I do not see either being a long term answer.
Which non 40-man roster player will have a big spring? (@JoeFain5)
A spot or two is up for grabs on the roster, especially in the pen. Lodolo will be impressive, but I think he will start in the minor regardless of performance. I have always liked Alex Powers and he is ready to contribute. Matt Davidson has the pop, but he plays a position that is crowded. Christian Colon could earn a backup SS role. He had a great spring in 2019 and an impressive year at AAA Louisville.
Outfielders most likely to be on the roster Opening Day? Starting Lineup? (@ChrisSchloemer)
As I was answering this the Reds signed Nicholas Castellanos. This throws a huge wrench into projecting the OF due to having too many options. Someone will be traded and Senzel has the most value.
C – Barnhart
1B – Votto
2B – Moustakas
SS- Glavis (most likely someone different via trade of an OF)
3B – Suarez
LF – Winker
CF – Senzel/ Akiyama depending on trades
RF – Castellanos
What throwback uniforms will the Reds wear this season? (@William46676045)
Last season the Reds wore throwbacks to celebrate 150 years of Reds baseball. It was awesome, too. The 1976, 1967, and 1999 were my favorite. The 1902, 1911, and 1936 I could do without. I’d like to see the Reds wear all of them again, but I would imagine we could see some of the player’s favorites. The collared jerseys were not the favorite amongst players.
Win projection if the Reds sign Castellanos? (@OdetoRedsWS)
Well, they did sign him. A big bat will be added to the middle of the order. What that means for the other 45 outfielders on the roster….who knows. I would think this adds at least 2 wins to the Reds in 2020.
If you could use one statistic as a measure for a player’s ability which would you use and why? (@soffenbaker)
People love and hate some stats. Some loved Iglesias’ 2 strike average. I didn’t really care about it. For hitters, I like OBP because I think getting on base leads to run production. Overall, I like WAR (wins above replacement). I know many do not like it, but it gives a value that most fans can pin to a player when comparing him to others. Good players will have bad stats, but no good player will have a bad WAR.
Who do you go get now? (Jamlung429)
The weakest position is short. Most of the top SS would cost a lot. But, considering the crowded outfield and that the Reds haven’t traded any prospects this offseason, go get that final piece. Senzel, prospect(s) and get a top 5 SS. Who that will be is tough to predict. I like Bogaerts but the Red Sox might not want to trade him.
Reds are All In
Whether or not the moves made pan out in a few months, there can be no doubt that the Reds are all in to win.
It was quietly mandated by the fanbase that the Reds go “ALL IN” this year. It started last year the night before the trade deadline. I wrote an article saying to trust the front office after the Reds traded away Yasiel Puig and Taylor Trammell for Trevor Bauer which at the time didn’t seem great on the surface. Since that trade for Bauer, Dick Williams and Nick Krall have been busy.
The middle infield was the glaring need of this team. First big splash this offseason was Mike Moustakas for 4 yrs/$64million. While the Reds will have him playing second base, he was considered the best free agent available at that position this offseason. Moose posted a 3.2 WAR (Baseball Reference), wRC+ 113 (Fangraphs), and OPS+ 114 (Baseball Reference) for the 2019 season while making the All Star team. Much welcomed stats for a team that struggled mightily to bring in runs last year.
Their next big splash shored up there starting rotation as the best in the NL Central, and one of the best in the MLB, with the signing of Wade Miley for 2yrs/$15 Million. Miley provided the Astros with 167.1 innings, 116 ERA+, and 4.51 FIP in 2019 according to Baseball Reference. I might add Miley will be reunited with Derek Johnson who he played under for the Brewers in 2018. In 2018 Miley provided the Brewers a 159 ERA+ and 3.59 FIP in a half year of work. This means the Reds starting rotation would consist of Gray, Castillo, Bauer, Disco and Miley. A projected 20.2 fWAR as a starting rotation ranking fourth in the National League. We have all seen what Johnson was able to do with Gray and Castillo last season. Will Miley be the next chapter of Johnson’s miracle work once they are reunited? More insane is the complete 180 the pitching staff has become in just one year. If Miley had signed in 2017 or 2018 there’s a real chance he might have been the Opening Day starter. Now he’s the 4th or 5th guy in a loaded starting rotation.
Finally, we come to the most recent signing in Shogo Akiyama for 3 yrs/$21 million. Shogo was the top free agent from Japan sought after by many clubs, including the Cubs. Playing at the highest level of Japanese baseball Shogo slashed .302/.392/.471 in 2019. For the most part his OBP has stayed around the .390 mark in recent years. OBP is probably one of the best stats that carries over from Japanese baseball which is promising for the Reds. Per the Reds front office they seem him as being able to play anywhere in the outfield as well. Probably the biggest concern with Shogo is that he is already 31 years old. Hopefully the Reds can get some amazing value out of this deal with Shogo in his prime.
This totals over $100 million spent, already, through free agency this season for the Reds. Our closest competition ranks among the lowest spending in free agency this offseason. The Cubs and Pirates have committed NOTHING in serious free agency contracts. The Cubs are looking to dump payroll and possibly trade Kris Bryant. The Pirates are a proverbial dumpster fire in rebuild mode. The Cardinals have their fan base banking on a trade for Arenado to be there savior this season. That won’t come cheap since Arenado is one of the elite third basemen in the league. Not to mention he is owed roughly $234 million through 2026. The Brewers have now lost Moustakas, Grandal, Thames, or 13 of the 25 players on their 2019 playoff roster. The Reds are absolutely seizing the day when it comes to taking advantage of the economic situation the rest of the division is in.
Many believe the biggest surprises are yet to come. Freddy Galvis is the projected starting shortstop for the Reds as of right now. In my personal opinion that is unacceptable with the current roster. Dick Williams addressed this issue a few weeks ago when he was on with Lance McAlister. He stated their openness to possibly moving Senzel, Suarez, or a potential player acquired through trade to that position. Any hopes of getting Lindor Correa or Story through trade have cooled in recent weeks. The Reds have been attached to Corey Seager, superstar shortstop with the Dodgers in trade rumors. Seager could come at a steal of a price for a player who has posted 4 WAR in his three full seasons and two years of contract control. There is a lot of history of the two teams trading, as well. Adding even more fuel to the fire is that the Reds are still attached to possibly signing Nicholas Castellanos to an already overcrowded outfield with Senzel, Winker, Aquino, Shogo, and Ervin. Castellanos has expressed interest in being a part of a team going after a championship, being a leader in the clubhouse, and in recent years he’s been hitting his stride. For the past two seasons he’s had an OPS+ greater than 120 and just shy of a 3 WAR according to Baseball Reference. At the very least the Reds could sign him to an Ozuna-like deal for one year overpriced. You sacrifice none of your prospect capital if this is the only move till Opening Day. Something the Reds have been pretty damn good at in recent years all things considered.
If they they are able to make one of these moves before Opening Day your probably looking at a 90 win team. I feel like if the Reds could somehow pull off a trade for Seager and signing Castellanos it would be hard to argue that they didn’t go “All In” this offseason. They would be the clear cut front runner to win the NL Central and hopefully a serious playoff run. If so that would keep Dick Williams promise for a record Opening Day payroll.
What I found more newsworthy is that Dick Williams said, at a recent stop on the Reds Caravan that his objective this season was a World Series championship. I’m not going to try and argue that this team is a serious contender for the World Series. I would be lying to you if I did. Personally, I think the team as currently constructed will go 85-77. I think their ceiling is NL Central champions and there floor is 81 wins. However, if Dick Williams and Nick Krall, who have been honest with their promises to the fan base so far, can truly go “All In” we should see something in the near future that make our beloved Redlegs something to talk about all season.
Bounce Back and a Breakout: Bullpen
Here are a few guys to keep an eye on, in the bullpen, as we near pitchers and catchers reporting.
2019 didn’t go as well as fans had hoped. Starting pitching was great, but the bullpen was not. Wandy Peralta, Zach Duke, David Hernandez, Jared Hughes, Kevin Gausman, and others are gone. How the bullpen will shake out is yet to be known, but I wanted to highlight a breakout and bounce back candidate.
Bounce Back: Raisel Iglesias
Honorable mention: Sal Romano
Since transitioning from a starter to a closer, Iglesias has been a hell of a pitcher. 2016 169 ERA+ 2017 181 ERA+ 2018 176 ERA+ 2019….109 ERA+. Iglesias had an ERA of 2.53 or lower from 2016-2018 but it ballooned to 4.16 in 2019. 2019 saw a new career high in saves, 34, while also setting a career high in losses, 12, up from his previous high of 7. Iglesias was disgruntled with his role while fans were upset with his play leading to trade rumors. 2020 is a new year and I think Iglesias will have a major bounce back.
We have all seen the talent. There’s no question if he has the stuff. For whatever reason, relievers seem to have on and off years (Looking at you Hughes and Hernandez). Iglesias threw his sinker only 10% of the time last season, which is the lowest of his career. He’s thrown it as much as 40% (2015) and his previous low was 22.6% (2017). Getting back to the sinker could help Iglesias improve in 2020.
Iglesias’ “advanced” analytics look great in the above graphic (thanks baseball savant). Spin rates have never been talked about more and Iglesias still looks good in that department. There’s simply too much talent in his arm to have another pedestrian season.
Prediction from Baseball Reference: 3.82 ERA 20 saves 1.227 WHIP.
Breakout: Joel Kuhnel
Honorable Mention: Jose De Leon
2019 saw a #66 steal the hearts of Cincinnati and now a different #66 will do the same. 6’5” 260 isn’t quiet Jumbo Diaz size but Kuhnel stands out, and so does his fastball. Topping out at 99 MPH Kuhnel has the stuff to blow past hitters. Bullpen arms don’t need several pitches if the two you throw, you throw well. His fastball slider combo could lead to plenty of strikeouts. The bullpen is starving for another reliable arm and Kuhnel will have every chance to earn a role. When I watch him pitch it reminds me of Bobby Jenks, now let’s hope he can pitch as well as Jenks. Still only 24 years old, as Sinatra once said the best is yet to come.
Prediction from Baseball Reference: 4.50 ERA 1.300 WHIP
Here’s a video of some heat: