Fay: Nick Senzel, Reds' No. 1 pick, has had a phenomenal two months with Dayton
'He just doesn't really have a weakness'
John Fay | WCPO contributor
9:00 AM, Sep 8, 2016
DAYTON -- Nick Senzel's final slash line from the Dayton Dragons is one Joey Votto would be proud of. Senzel cranked out extra-base hits like no Dragon since Jay Bruce.
Not a bad way to start your professional career.
Senzel, the Reds' No. 1 pick in the June draft and the No. 2 pick overall, had a phenomenal two months with the Dragons. Not only did he hit, he played well in the field and ran the bases well.
"He just doesn't really have a weakness," said Tom Nichols, the long-time Dragons radio voice. "We were talking the other day and really couldn't come up with one."
When you're picking second in the draft, you can't afford to miss. Based on those early returns, the Reds didn't on Senzel. He hit .329 with 24 doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 40 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 58 games with Dayton. His on-base percentage (.415) and slugging percentage (.567) would have led the Midwest League if he'd had enough at-bats to qualify.
Bruce was the only Dragon to average 0.5 extra-base hits per game until Senzel did it this year. Votto, who played at Dayton at the same age (21) as Senzel, had a .419 on-base and a .486 slugging average as a Dragon.
The Reds are obviously pleased with their highest pick ever.
"It's the numbers he's delivered," general manager Dick Williams said. "But it's also what he -- and [third-round pick] Chris Okey, to be fair -- have meant to that team. That was a team that had a horrible first half. For those two guys to arrive there and assert themselves as leaders, it's really provided a stability to that team.
"I've been pleased, not just that Senzel's been hitting, but the way he goes about his business.
"You couldn't ask for much more, performance-wise."
Senzel was the player of the year in the SEC for Tennessee. He was also the MVP of the wood-bat Cape Cod League. So the Reds expected the adjustment to pro ball to be minimal. The fact that Senzel hit .152 in 10 games with Billings didn't change the plan, although Senzel was caught off guard by his promotion to Dayton on July 1.
"Yeah, I was surprised," he said. "I didn't really know what they had in store for me. They wanted me to go out there to Billings and play, get some at-bats and get my feet wet, get acclimated to minor-league baseball."
He was good from the start at Dayton.
"From Day 1, he's gone about his business like he's been doing it quite a while," Dragons manager Dick Schofield said. "Obviously, he's been playing baseball for quite a while. But you come out of college and professional baseball can be a little bit different with the travel and all. He's fit right in and didn't miss a beat."
College baseball games are played mostly on weekends. Pro baseball is a daily thing.
"That's the biggest adjustment," Senzel said, "playing every day. You've got to get your body ready to play every single day. You've got to make sure you're doing the right things to play every day.
"At first it was a change, but you get used to it. The transition gets a little easier. I've enjoyed my time in Dayton. It's been a good ride."
Senzel runs well -- Nichols says Senzel's speed is somewhere between Chris Heisey's and Drew Stubbs'. That would put him well above the big-league average.
Senzel's range is good at third and he throws well.
But his key tool is his bat. One former Reds hitting coach used to say when asked how to develop good on-base percentage hitters: "You draft them."
The Reds drafted one in Senzel.
"He has some outstanding at-bats," Schofield said. "He'll get two strikes, and he'll stand up there like it's 2-0. He'll take close pitches. He must see the ball very well. That's half the battle -- seeing it so you can be on time to hit it. He's had some huge hits for us. I think he's going to continue to progress and get better."
Senzel made the adjustment from the metal bat in college to the wood bat quickly.
"It's always an adjustment when you go from metal to wood," Senzel said. "It took a little bit to get the feeling back. You get used to it. It gets a little better each day you swing it."
The question with Senzel is where he'll play in the majors. Eugenio Suarez has made a case to be the third baseman of the future. Schofield, who played in the majors as a shortstop for 14 years, thinks Senzel could stay at third or move to short or second.
"I think he can play third in the majors," Schofield said. "I don't want to say no. He played short in college for a couple of years. He's 6-1, 210. He's still going to get a little bit stronger. He has the actions to play in the middle of the infield, but he may stay at third base."
If Senzel continues to swing the bat the way he did this season, the Reds will find a place to play him -- and probably in the not-too-distant future.