GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 20: Nick Senzel #79 of the Cincinnati Reds poses for a portrait at the Cincinnati Reds Player Development Complex on February 20, 2018 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
Photo: HANDOUT/Getty Images
Photo: HANDOUT/Getty Images

Cincinnati Reds: Top prospect Senzel debuts in center field

Senzel, the second overall pick by the Reds in the 2016 MLB Draft, has been an infielder as he’s moved up through the system. On Monday, Senzel started his first game in center field against the Mariners in his 2019 spring training debut.

Senzel caught two routine fly balls and went 0-for-3 with a stolen base.

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“It is another position I can get better at,” Senzel said before the game. “… It is a challenging position. I think left field and right field are more challenging positions. I think you just see more. You’re covering a lot of ground, you have to cover the gaps. I’m excited about it.”

Senzel’s only previous experience in the outfield came in the instructional league this winter. The spot in center opened up when the Reds released Billy Hamilton in December. Hamilton has sinced signed with the Kansas City Royals.

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In the build up to his first game, Senzel worked with with Reds Hall of Famer Eric Davis and tracked balls in batting practice.

“He moves on the field pretty well,” Reds manager David Bell said of Senzel. “He has the athletic ability to play in center.”

The Cactus League games will determine when Senzel is ready to come to the Major Leagues as an outfielder or infielder. It is believed in the organization that Senzel will appear in the big leagues at some point, if not Opening Day.

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It’s a crowded outfield in Cincinnati with veterans Scott Schebler, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Jesse Winker. Phillip Ervin, relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen also are in the mix.

“I’m learning it relatively late in my minor league career,” Senzel said. “I’m going to be learning it in the big leagues. I think that puts a more challenging aspect on it. I’m doing what’s best for me.”

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Last season, Senzel moved around the infield. A third baseman in college at Tennessee, Senzel played shortstop and second base last spring training and at Triple-A Louisville. He played 28 games at second base for the Bats before fracturing his right index finger at the end of June.

Despite the injury, Senzel was named the organization’s player of the month and ranked fifth in the International League with a .310 average. He went to the instructional league in Goodyear after he recovered from surgery on his finger. He played center and left field until Oct. 16, when he shut it down with arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs in his left, non throwing elbow.

Senzel hit .321 combined beween High-A Daytona and A-Pensacola in 2017. He hit 14 home runs and had 65 RBIs. In his first pro season (2016), he hit .305 between Dayton and Billings.

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