The Washington Nationals have made three acquisitions with reliever Dylan Floro, former top prospect, Nick Senzel, and a Rule-5 pick of Nasim Nuñez. Floro and Nuñez’s roles were easily defined quickly — but there was much doubt on the 28 year old infielder/outfielder who was non-tendered by the Reds … until he spoke to the media yesterday.
When Senzel had his ZOOM media call after his signing became official with the Nats, he spilled the beans that he expects to be the team’s every day third baseman — and not a utility man coming off of the bench. His overall numbers were bad if we can be honest because he was dreadful against RH pitching and was sub-Mendoza at .164 with a .497 OPS. He is aware of this issue, and that is his offseason priority to get better against right-handed pitching.
“Biggest priority I would say is getting better against right-handed pitching. I’ve been working out at the University of Tennessee. Ton of guys there. I went over to Stillwater, Oklahoma to hit with Matt Holliday and his sons for about a week. I’m gonna head back there in January, just to get some good work in there. So if you’re gonna pick one specific thing, I would say just working on right-handed pitching, and the swing in general.”— Senzel said to the media yesterday
If you want the good news on Senzel, he was one of the best platoon hitters during the 2023 season in baseball. He slashed .348 /.389/ .619 with a 1.008 OPS against southpaws. But you only face lefty starters about twice a week on average. What happens with the other 4-to-5 games a week if Senzel believes he is playing every day?
There are some righties that Senzel hits well with a surprising list that starts with Trevor Williams (slashing 1.000/1.000/2.500 with a 3.500 OPS) — except that’s not good since they are teammates. Okay, there is Aaron Nola, Seth Lugo, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, and Chase Anderson too. But beyond that, he just has not had much success against right-handed pitchers who are still active. Senzel was much better hitting on the road in his splits which you would not expect since Cincinnati is known as a hitter’s park. That’s some good news. But playing every day?
“Washington was kind of on my radar right after I got non-tendered by Cincinnati. Obviously, playing them, and knowing that there was opportunity to be able to compete for a job there. So right off the bat, Washington was kind of on my radar.”— Senzel said to the media yesterday
“I just happened to get a great opportunity. I was able to talk to Davey and some of the coaches. They expect me to play third base every day, and in-game, I can move to second base and the outfield, but I think the plan is to play third every day. That’s really exciting for me.”
So here’s the big question, what happens to Carter Kieboom if Senzel is manning third base every day? When the rumors of Senzel’s signing broke, it appeared that he would be a platoon bat given how he destroys lefty pitching — but given his quote, he thinks he’s starting at third base most days. During the 2023 season, Senzel played 57 games at third base, six games at second, 23 in left field, 18 in right field, and 18 more in right field. He was really a jack of all trades with almost an equal split between the infield and outfield.
If you remember in 2018, Senzel was the No. 7 ranked prospect by Baseball America, and he came out of that 2016 draft, probably the worst draft class in baseball history if you look at the Top-30 picks. There’s Kieboom picked 26 spots after Senzel by the Nats in that draft in that same first round. An unfortunate coincidence, Senzel and Kieboom, have identical career WAR values — both at -1.8 per BBRef. Not good at all. The Reds selected Senzel at No. 2 overall in that draft, and the Rizzo decision at the end of Spring Training could come down to a decision on Kieboom’s fate with the team.
A deep dive into the Nats’ bench has Ildemaro Vargas and Nuñez already pegged as bench players. With a backup catcher (Riley Adams or Drew Millas) taking the third of the four spots on the bench, you’d think the final spot would go to an outfielder where the Nats have 5 on the roster (Alex Call, Stone Garrett, Victor Robles, Lane Thomas, and Jacob Young). Three outfielders of course start, and who becomes the fourth outfielder? What if general manager Mike Rizzo signs another outfielder in free agency? So do you have Kieboom, Jake Alu, and Nuñez fight for the last spot? Alu has 2 minor league options remaining. Call and Young have 3 minor league options. Kieboom and Luis Garcia have no minor league options remaining, and Garcia’s value is his age and his lefty bat.
Let’s make a lineup:
- CJ Abrams SS
- Lane Thomas RF
- Joey Meneses 1B
- Vacant DH
- Stone Garrett LF
- Nick Senzel 3B
- Luis Garcia 2B
- Keibert Ruiz C
- Victor Robles CF
Again, those bench spots are assuming no other players are signed. The clear spot remaining is for a DH, and if they don’t fill that spot, it could be Stone Garrett shifting to DH and Young or Call starting in left field quite possibly. Of course one of the top prospects could push onto the 2024 roster as James Wood, Dylan Crews, and Brady House all look close to MLB ready.
Senzel talked about his friendship with Thomas on his decision to play for the Nats in his choice of signing in free agency. They’d played together since they were seven or eight years old, and into travel ball. They went to rival high schools, and Senzel went to the University of Tennessee where he worked himself into one of the best players in the country. Unfortunately past his rookie season, his career has not been what you would expect of the No. 2 overall draft pick.
Senzel talked about third base being home for him, and how that would help his body. But plans can change of course. The rest of the offseason on signings and moves, and actual games in Spring Training will determine the final moves.
“I really like the reactionary part of [third base]. How everything happens so fast and the ball is on you and you have to make quick decisions and be pretty reactionary to it. I feel like — and you can ask any baseball player, probably — the less time you have to think, the better off you are just to react. And third base is one of those positions where you can get hot shots right at you pretty regularly. That’s probably why I love it so much. Just the pace and the quickness of it and just the reaction to it. I really like the angle of the throw. I play the ball on the run pretty well, so I do take to the angle at third base well. I would say those are probably two of the things why I love it.”— Senzel said
For Senzel, he will immediately get a taste of his old team because the Nats face the Reds on Opening Day of the 2024 season.