Four months ago this draft was all about the Pitchers, then an odd thing happened. Well, maybe not odd really as these projections are really volatile the spring leading to the draft every year. But, most of the Pitchers have created question marks this Spring. AJ Puk started great, then mixed in some struggles, while Hansen did the exact opposite and came out with a giant stinker for his first start, then mixed in some better work in subsequent appearances. Groome and Pint, as High Schoolers are just getting their seasons started (though one hell of a start for Groome), giving opportunities for College bats to move up in the rankings around the web. Senzel is solidly in the realm of possible guys to go 1:1.
Nick Senzel is a 6'1" 205 lb Third/Second Baseman for the Tennessee Volunteers. He's a Right Handed hitter and thrower with several above average tools. This time last year Senzel was on radars as a draft prospect, but more likely 4th-8th round range, then last summer he went to the Cape Cod League and wreaked havoc upon it hitting at a .364/.418/.558 clip. That performance got him on draft lists as a borderline 1st/2nd rounder. The only questions were about his glove for many who scouted him. That's because the Vols switched him back and forth a few times between Second and Third. Your draft stock is much better if you can play Third Base. So we'll start with his Defense.
As a Defender Senzel can be a bit stiff, but he has the arm to play Third. His arm isn't a cannon, but it's above-average to maybe plus. In other words it's just enough to stay at Third. He has natural instincts at Third, but a slow first step and, like our own Maikel Franco when he was in the Minors, this can sometimes make routine plays a bit more of an adventure than they need to be. Several reports note that he's very comfortable and adept at charging balls in the grass and making odd angle throws. One area of concern is the same as there currently is for Franco: Senzel is a stocky guy and built solidly, as he matures he may grow out of Third Base and need to be moved across the diamond (or potentially to the OF, as he has some speed). There is some potential that he could be tried at Second base. As mentioned parenthetically above Senzel is an Above-Average runner which suggests he could have good range up the middle. The concern here is largely with his hands. A large part of the demands of Second Base defense involves a quick exchange from glove to throwing hand while spinning to make the throw to First on double-plays. A few reports which had been of him playing Second noted this as a potential issue in that he doesn't seem natural at that. Additionally you don't see many stocky Second Basemen, suggesting he would be a rather odd profile there. The video below (courtesy Baseball America) has some fielding and some hitting. The fielding is of the pre-game variety which every report seems to suggest Senzel doesn't put much effort into. He's better in-game.
Now that you've seen a little bit of his hitting let's talk more about that part of his game. Senzel has the raw tools of a future batting champ, with one of my favorite swings. His swing has flaws, but the basic structure of his swing is a thing of beauty. First, to load his hands he pulls his hands down and into the start of his swing, creating a shorter path to the ball and allowing him to start his swing later. His swing is then flat through the zone giving him plenty of opportunity for contact. He keeps his hands inside the ball and shows good bat control to adjust to pitches. He frequently makes contact with the barrel and has the makings of a double machine. His eye is also a strong tool, as he has a nearly 1:1 K:BB ratio throughout his College career. Now for the flaws, and to show them I'll use a video from former Phillies blog prospect writer (and current ESPN prospect writer) Eric Longenhagen below. There aren't many things to pick out, but scouts all seem to note that Senzel has Above-Average to Plus raw power, but prior to 2016 he only has 5 Home Runs in nearly 400 at bats. Now, there has been improvement since last Spring, as Senzel almost matched his full College output in one Summer with 4 HR on the Cape, and he's mashing plenty this Spring with 4 Home Runs already with ~2 months to go in the season. However, the potential is there for more. Presently all of Senzel's power is generated by his Plus bat speed and his wrists. As you can see in the clip below, there isn't much lower body in his swing. He uses a kick and sets well before his swing makes contact. This is good for his contact and vision, it also allows him to adjust his swing better and hit to all fields, but it robs his power, by taking the momentum of his lower half out of his swing. There should be a happy middle ground that can get him to 20 HR power and keep his approach somewhat similar, but a decision will need to made whether to improve his power at the cost of batting average or keep his hitting at the cost of some power. With his present swing he'll probably hit 10-15 HR per year, with adjustments he could get as high as 20 to maybe 25 Homers. Reports note his athleticism, so he should be able to incorporate some swing changes without issues.
Senzel is an intriguing player, but I would have just enough questions about his glove to keep me from making him the First overall selection. I love the bat though and expect it will allow him to tear through the Minors pretty quickly. So there is potential value if the team hopes for a quick rebuild. While a potential Ace like Puk or Groome is valuable, we've seen other clubs like the Cubs, Rangers and Red Sox build their core with bats and add arms via trades and Free Agency. On the other hand we see the Mets who have one of the most ridiculous rotations in Baseball history to go with an Offense that exists sometimes. I can see value in both strategies and we'll have to wait and see which one the Klentak/MacPhail regime choose to follow. I'll finish things off with the video below from last summer (courtesy Baseball America), where you can see Senzel's previous swing with no real leg lift, just a tiny toe tap. So, he's already adjusting his swing some.