Sensley becoming better on both sides of the ball in AFL

GLENDALE– Steven Sensley just wants to play baseball.

He doesn’t care where you place him in the field, but as long as he’s penciled into the lineup, he’s cool with it.

Sensley has been primarily used as a corner outfielder in the two seasons since he was taken in the 12th round of the 2017 draft by New York.

But in the Arizona Fall League, the 23-year-old has been coolheaded about a transition to first base, a position he played at in just 36 games in 2018.

He isn’t one to complain, considering the positional change has seen him play in 16 of the Glendale Desert Dogs’ first 21 games out west.

“I feel good [at first base],” he said following Thursday’s 14-3 loss. “I am working on my pre-pitch right now, just getting ready for when the ball comes instead of being stagnant over there — a little movement and momentum, but that’s about it.”

The transition to first base may not be all that unusual, though. As a lefty, he said he grew up playing all the positions he was limited to: first base and the outfield.

And before you wonder, pitching was never in the cards for Sensley. “I couldn’t throw strikes,” he laughed.

In Arizona, Sensley is aiming to become a “better defender and wiser hitter.”

You know what you’re getting at the plate with the six-foot-one, 220-pound slugger, who boasts prolific power. He launched 17 home runs in 2018 with stints at Charleston and Tampa, a year removed from owning near-.600 slugging percentage.

But as a member of the Desert Dogs, he’s yet to homer. It’s one of several things he’s fine-tuning at the plate this fall.

“I’m just working on hitting the ball in the air. All the balls I’ve been hitting have been low line drives. I’m not complaining about it, but I want to see the ball leave the yard sometimes, too. That and plate discipline; swinging at the right pitches and taking pitches that I can’t do anything with.”

All of those components play a factor into the .200 batting average he’s composed so far with Glendale.

The average this fall may be a tad bit misleading. He’s routinely barreled up balls, and began the fall campaign hitting safely in five of the team’s first seven games.

And most importantly, he’s looked increasingly comfortable at first base each time he’s taken the field.

“It’s been eye-opening,” he said of the experience in Arizona. “You come out here and see all the other talented guys, it makes you want to work harder.”

It remains up in the air whether the move to first base is strictly a fall experiment, a way to make more the Baton Rouge native a more flexible player, or whether he’ll return to the outfield next season.

He couldn’t tell you what the plan is, either.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “We’ll see. Hopefully I’m not limited to one position, hopefully I can play first and outfield.”

Unranked in the Yankees system, Sensley is an under-the-radar guy who can make a living in baseball by mashing opposing pitching.

Even better that he plans to do it in a pinstriped uniform.

“Watching the World Series and seeing the atmosphere that was in Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium, it makes you wonder what Yankee Stadium would be like.

“We kind of got a glimpse of it in the playoffs, but I want to play in that someday.”