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.

27 Responses

  1. BK

    The scouting department deserves huge kudos for targeting CES and Steer. The player development team deserves accolades for finding a way to help each player work on known weaknesses. Steer, McLain, EDLC, Abbott, and even Williamson all hit the majors and played like they belonged from day one. We could say the same for Diaz, Greene, Aschraft, and Lodolo last year. The promotions haven’t felt rushed as they sometimes have in the past.

    Lots of additional talent percolating at the lower levels and some nice bullpen arms (e.g., Salazar and Legumina) and bench options (e.g., Hopkins, Robinson) who look like contributors moving forward.

    • AllTheHype

      Yes, Reds scouting and development is one of the best in league right now.

      • Oldtimer

        As it was in mid 1960s. OTD in 1965 the Reds drafted Johnny Bench in 2nd round.

  2. Laredo Slider

    Certainly hope CES is next. Wasn’t an accident Steer was moved to LF yesterday clearing the way for CES at 1B.

    • The Duke

      And we can stop getting Newman every day starts, and not have Stephenson DH as well.

    • mac624

      He’s definitely next, but I don’t think we will see him until they figure out Votto. There just simply isn’t enough room at this point to bring CES up with Votto looming to return (maybe) in a couple weeks. Good problem to have I guess.

      • Melvin

        There are a lot of games that CES could have a positive impact on before Votto comes off the IL. Bring him up then figure it out. Eventually I’d like to see him learn the outfield if possible as well.

      • 2020ball

        If your goal is to teach him the OF, then leave him in AAA

      • mgood20

        Why can’t Votto just retire? He’s had a fantastic career but is no longer a viable major leaguer.

      • Doug Gray

        He’s coming off of two major surgeries. Two years ago he was very, very good and then last year he was injured.

        Maybe give him enough time to rehab and see what happen my dude.

  3. The Duke

    Rodriguez’s slash line by Month:

    April (16 games): .185/.290/.389/.679
    May (23 games): .357/.394/.612/1.006
    June (4 games): .353/.389/.765/1.154

    AND he’s a CF, so that would be a nice fit if he continues his way up the ladder in the next couple of years.

    MLB Pipeline has him as the Reds 26th ranked prospect coming into the year, and i think they may have undersold his power a little bit. Here are his ratings from them:

    Hit: 45
    Power: 40
    Run: 60
    Arm: 45
    Field: 50
    Overall: 40

    • Stock

      I agree Duke. I had him at 14 at YE only because he had a major injury and I did not know how that would work out. My thought was that if two organizations (Mets, Reds) thought enough of an 18 year old to promote him to A ball there must be something there. 14 seems kind of low but the Reds top 15 is really good.

      Jorge and Rodriguez should be in Dayton by the end of the month. To be honest I don’t understand why they are still in Daytona.

  4. SultanofSwaff

    Steer’s versatility could make way for CES by optioning Hopkins. If the team commits to Newman in the utility role then Barrero could be optioned when Friedl returns….or even now. Point is, there is a pathway for him to get regular at-bats….and he’d be an upgrade to boot.

  5. Bdh

    1 of CES and Votto can come up now on this roster but the 2nd needs to wait until one of the reserve catchers is moved.

    • wolfcycle

      Casseli seems to be Green’s personal catcher, which would leave luke odd man out.

  6. JB

    CES needs to come up now. Like yesterday. He should be playing first and DH. If Newman is keeping him down in AAA then this organization is redicilous. DFA Kuhnel off the 40 and send down Barrero who isn’t playing. Votto needs to stay in AAA until he starts hitting.

    • Optimist

      Yep – some could argue for other DHs now, but they need the power bat behind EDLC in the lineup, and there really is no better option available. Longer term, his defense is the only issue – if the bat sticks he will always be a DH, but if he can play 1b that fills the obvious hole next season.

  7. MBS

    I’d worry about JV’s playing time when he actually starts playing. His last rehab stint ended with a whimper. This one isn’t starting any better. JV doesn’t want to play if he’s not able to play “at a high level.” I hope he does return at a high level.

    CES is the last guy you just have to promote, at least for now. Marte might get the call to AAA, and by midseason we might be calling for him to be promoted as well.

    • Zach

      This comment exactly. Votto won’t want to return if he doesn’t deserve it. He’s stated this many times throughout his career.

      Hope he finds a way to stick in Cincinnati, I love the guy and think he’d be an incredible coach too if he’s open to that option. He’s relatively young and obviously is one of the greatest hitters of the past 2 decades.

  8. Mike

    I know everyone loves Votto, but enough already. It’s over, so let’s bring the guy up who can really help us

      • Greenfield Red

        Old, slow, injured. Poor defense. Poor base running.

      • AMDG

        Because going 0 for 4 with 2 K’s each night does not help.

        At this point in his career, the only way Votto helps is if the Reds do the Corky Miller thing with him. Give him limited playing time because he can’t hit, but use him as a positive “clubhouse” sort of guy.

  9. Roseyred

    CES needs to come up now- we all love Votto but it feels like he’s done. Hasn’t hit well in 1 1/2 years now. With a line up of India McClain EDLC CES Freidl Stephenson Stills it’s the best since the Big Red Machine.

  10. 2020ball

    Votto was great in 2021, so I’m not sure what you mean. He was injured last year.

    I’m sure he would split time with someone.

    • Alan

      Indeed. A bit sad, perhaps, but he does seem to be at the very end of a nice, scenic road.

    • Oldtimer

      Rose and Perez shared 1B in mid 1980s. Concepcion yielded to Larkin in mid 1980s. Bench went from F/T (everyday starter) to P/T (occasional starter, pinch hitter) in early 1980s.

      Great players get old. Votto is getting there.