The Cincinnati Reds have plundered the Louisville Bats roster over the last few weeks. First it was Matt McLain. Then it was Andrew Abbott and TJ Hopkins. Yesterday it was Elly De La Cruz. While there are still several guys performing well in Triple-A, it’s Christian Encarnacion-Strand at the very top and he’s got to be wondering when it’s going to be his time.
Acquired last summer at the trade deadline from the Minnesota Twins, Christian Encarnacion-Strand had crushed the ball everywhere he’s ever been. This year, though, he’s taken things to a different level – much like his now former teammates Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, and TJ Hopkins.
The infielder began the season on the injured list, dealing with a slight herniation of a disc in his back. When he returned from the injured list a few weeks into the season he picked up right where he had left of fin spring training. 38 games later he’s hitting an absurd .352/.408/.716 with 12 doubles, a triple, and 15 home runs. Last night he went 3-4 with a walk, falling a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
A little bit of additional information from last night and the video above. His single came off of the bat at 110.5 MPH. The double was even better – it had an exit velocity of 114.0 MPH. The home run? Well it might be the lowest exit velocity home run that went over a wall this year at just 93.2 MPH off of the bat.
In some ways Christian Encarnacion-Strand entered the season like Elly De La Cruz – there were some concerns about his walk and strikeout rates. Both guys had hit the ball, and hit the ball well in their careers. But generally speaking, both players were viewed as guys who needed to walk a little bit more than they had and hopefully cut down on their strikeouts a tiny bit, too. De La Cruz did just that, and in a big way.
For the 23-year-old Encarnacion-Strand, he didn’t quite do that to begin the year. In his first 28 games with Louisville he had three walks and he had 36 strikeouts. He still obliterated the ball while not walking at all, but he simply wasn’t walking. Then, just like it seemed to happen for Elly De La Cruz, overnight something changed. On May 26th he walked twice in a game against the Syracuse Mets. Over the next nine games he would walk nine more times. During this stretch of his last 10 games he’s walked 11 times and he’s struck out just five times. He’s hit .368/.510/.790 over that span with four doubles and four home runs.
There is going to be some interesting conversations soon about where it is that he fits in on the big league club in the short term. He’s played third base and first base during his career. At least with Cincinnati it does not seem that third base is going to be there for him in the immediate future. First base is currently a spot where there could be some playing time, but that’s only going to last until Joey Votto is ready to get back on the field again – and right now he’s with Louisville on a rehab assignment. This could be where Christian Encarnacion-Strand ultimately winds up, but in the short term he’s not taking that spot on an every day basis. The designated hitter role could be there on a lot of days, so that’s a possibility, too.
What we are seeing, though, is another prospect from the Reds who is doing things at the plate that he’s never done before. And at least from an offensive standpoint he seems like he’s just about as ready as he’s going to be – especially if his newfound ability to lay off of non-strikes is more than just a blip on the radar.
Hector Rodriguez is crushing it
The month of April wasn’t great for Hector Rodriguez. Coming back from a serious leg injury that he suffered last season, Rodriguez hit just .185/.290/.389 during April. Once the calendar flipped to May he turned things up to another level and he hasn’t looked back since. Last night he picked up three hits – including his Florida State League best 9th home run.
Like Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Hector Rodriguez was acquired at the trade deadline last summer. He came over from the Mets, along with pitcher Jose Acuna. While he’s still just in Single-A, the Mets may be looking at this deal and already kicking themselves. After last night’s game, Rodriguez is now hitting .302/.359/.557 with six doubles, five triples, and nine home runs. He’s second in the league in slugging percentage, third in the league in OPS, and he’s eighth in the league in batting average. He’s also still just 19-years-old.