Nick Senzel won't be the Reds' Opening Day center fielder.
The Reds reassigned their top prospect to Minor League camp on Friday after he tried to win the starting Major League spot this spring, the club announced.
"This was the hardest cut we've had that I can remember," Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams told MLB.com. "With Nick in particular, it is a recognition of the fact that he exceeded expectations this spring. With some more game experience out there -- I think he's literally been in 12 games as a center fielder -- a handful of innings at night and really only a couple of nine-inning games. With some experience, he has shown us that he's going to do it out there. I think that surprised a lot of people. We owe it to him to give him the opportunity to get prepared for when he comes here."
Senzel went 12-for-39 (.308) with six doubles, three RBIs and four stolen bases in 12 Cactus League games. The 23-year-old had been held out for a small period of time but played three games this week before the reassignment. He had one of his best games of the spring Tuesday against the White Sox, going 2-for-5 with two doubles and a steal.
But all of the focus this spring had been on the No. 6 overall prospect's work in the field. Taken in the first round of the 2016 Draft as a third baseman, Senzel had played there as well as second base and shortstop over three Minor League seasons. However, the Reds had an opening in center field after non-tendering Billy Hamilton. With Senzel's plus speed and solid arm, the club believed he could handle the move to the middle of the grass, and as a result, the University of Tennessee product played all of his 73 innings in the field in center.
"At the end of the day, I feel like I've done everything I can do to put myself in a good position to make the team and show them that I can play center field," Senzel told MiLB.com's Katie Woo this week. "It's not ultimately up to me when it comes down to the final decision, but just knowing I've done everything I can is what makes it a little bit easier for me."
The organization also liked what they saw about Senzel's transition.
"He did everything he possibly could," Reds manager David Bell said told MLB.com. "In the end, we had to remember that this guy has never played a regular-season game in the outfield. The good news is when he does come up, he's going to be that much more prepared to do it -- and he's close. He's shown he can do it. In the big picture, he's going to be that much more ready, and it's going to serve him well getting some playing time in real games."
Video: Senzel drills solo shot for Bats
With Senzel out of the picture, Scott Schebler is likely to start in center for the Reds on Opening Day next Thursday at home against the Pirates.
Senzel certainly won't have to prove his bat and speed are Major League-ready. The right-handed-hitting slugger produced a .310/.378/.509 line with six homers and eight steals over 44 games with Triple-A Louisville last season. He likely would have pushed for a spot in the Senior Circuit before this spring, if he hadn't been limited by vertigo and season-ending surgery to fix a fractured index finger. Now healthy with the hamstring issues behind him, Senzel will head back to the International League for a second time, and if all goes well, it should be a much more abbreviated stay.
"It's the experience at this point. He's done all the drills he could possibly do," Bell said this week. "The thing that he's really going to need is just to continue to play in games. A lot of those games are going to be in Spring Training and potentially at the big league level, but we're not going to put him in a position that we don't think he can handle."
Offseason MiLB include
The Reds made eight other cuts from Major League camp on Friday: left-hander Ian Krol, left-hander Cody Reed, right-hander Sal Romano, right-hander Lucas Sims, catcher Juan Graterol, catcher/infielder Kyle Farmer, infielder Blake Trahan and outfielder Phillip Ervin.
Giants move Bart to Minor League camp: In more expected news, the Giants also reassigned their top prospect, Joey Bart.
Taken with the second overall pick out of Georgia Tech last June, MLB.com's No. 22 overall prospect was in the midst of his first Spring Training and was not a serious contender to crack the Giants' Major League roster this early in his career. He did make a solid first impression, however, going 7-for-20 (.350) with a homer and two doubles in 15 Cactus League games. The 22-year-old catcher appeared in 13 games behind the plate and threw out one of two attempted basestealers.
Bart batted .294/.364/.588 with 13 homers in 51 games between the Rookie-level Arizona League and Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer last year, showing off his impressive offensive skills. Also considered an above-average defender with both his glove and his arm, he's likely to open the season with Class A Advanced San Jose.