Fantasy Baseball: Why Cincinnati's Nick Senzel Should Be the Next Rookie on Your Squad
In the first two weeks of the season, Shohei Ohtani has been the rookie everyone in Major League Baseball is talking about. That's what happens when you're the Japanese reincarnation of Babe Ruth. But Ohtani is not the only first-year player worth talking about in fantasy.
The Phillies' Scott Kingery has two homers in his last two games and is slugging .548 while playing virtually every day. The Miami Marlins' Brett Anderson has a wOBA of .426 in 52 plate appearances. And, of course, we're all waiting for the Atlanta Braves to call-up the uber-talented Ronald Acuna (something that should be coming in the next few days).
Even though he's not in the Majors yet, the hype around Acuna has been strong, which is why he's already owned in 83% of ESPN fantasy leagues. If you didn't draft him, chances are you're not going to get him. But there is another top-shelf rookie that appears ready to ascend to the Majors as an everyday player, thanks to an injury to an established player at his position.
Cincinnati Reds infield prospect Nick Senzel will, in all likelihood, be on the major league roster by the end of this week. And here's why you should add him now, before anyone else in your league gets a chance to.
Injury Opens The Door
Last year in Cincinnati, Suarez enjoyed a breakout season as he batted .260/.367/.461 with 26 homers, 82 RBI and 87 runs scored, with a walk rate that increased from 8.1% to 13.3% from 2016 to 2017. He was worth 4.0 fWAR in 2017, and that is production -- in both real-world and fantasy -- that is hard to replace.
However, it appears as if Cincinnati is grooming Senzel to take his place, which means regular playing time for the first-year infielder.
The reason Senzel -- the number-two overall pick in the 2016 draft -- didn't get the call-up right away is quite simple: the Reds are trying to buy an extra year of team control. But the date that becomes official is rapidly approaching.
April 13 is the day the #Reds can bring up Nick Senzel without losing a year of control.
— John Fay (@johnfayman) April 9, 2018
Senzel is a third baseman by trade but was playing shortstop this spring and at the beginning of his minor league season in Triple-A, in an attempt to give him a clearer path to the Majors. However, with the injury to Suarez, Senzel has been playing third base in recent days and is a hint of what's to come.
It doesn't take Inspector Gadget to connect the dots here, people.
Extra Base Machine
Senzel came into the season as a top-10 prospect, and the reason why is easy to see: he's been an extra-base machine in the minors.
Across High-A and Double-A last season, Senzel hit .321/.391/.514 with 14 homers, 40 doubles and 3 triples in 507 plate appearances. His slash line actually improved when he was promoted to Double-A, when he batted .340/.413/.560 with 10 of his 14 bombs coming after his promotion. And that's not to mention his 14 stolen bases in 2017.
He has gotten off to a slow start while in Triple-A, but that small sample size is not likely to impact Cincinnati's decision on whether to bring him up or not.
He Should Be Owned
Senzel is owned in just 9.1% of ESPN fantasy leagues, with a large number of those owners likely in NL-only, dynasty, or really deep leagues. If you have the space as a fantasy owner, you should roster him now and stash him on the bench until it's clear how his playing time shakes out.
When he's called up, he should be playing every day, and the expectation is that Senzel is going to produce as a hitter, if and when that happens.
He may not have the initial burst of production we've seen from Ohtani, Kingery and Anderson, and he's not the dynamic superstar that Acuna is likely to be. However, Senzel can be a solid replacement for Suarez and is yet another rookie to get excited about in season-long fantasy leagues.