Don't overlook the power of CES at Louisville

May 28th, 2023

CHICAGO -- Even as top Reds prospect Elly De La Cruz continues to wow with booming home runs and obscene exit velocity, his Triple-A Louisville teammate  has made it very difficult to be overlooked.

Encarnacion-Strand, Cincinnati's No. 7-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, crushed a solo homer on Friday that had 107.1 mph exit velocity. It moved him into a tie with the recently promoted  for the Bats’ team lead with 12 homers.

In 30 games entering Sunday, the right-handed hitting Encarnacion-Strand is slashing .341/.376/.697 with 27 RBIs. Before he had a back injury during Spring Training, he batted .577 with a 1.748 OPS, four homers and 13 RBIs in 12 Cactus League games.

“Not really a surprise, we saw a lot of this last year at Double-A," said Shawn Pender, the Reds’ vice president of player development. "A very mature kid and very focused on what he wants to accomplish. He’s always had the power, but the thing we really like about him is he drives the ball to all fields. You can’t think you can pitch him away and that’s going to be a hole.”

Acquired at the Trade Deadline last year from the Twins with infielder  and Steve Hajjar (since traded to the Guardians) for Tyler Mahle, Encarnacion-Strand has played more third base this season after he focused on first base during Spring Training in big league camp. First base appears to be his future position, however.

Encarnacion-Strand, 23, is still strikeout prone. He's drawn six walks compared to 38 strikeouts in 141 plate appearances.

“I think it’s going to come with the territory," Pender said. "To me what I’m most pleased with what I’ve seen, he really wants to get runs in. As he matures and gets a little bit better at recognizing the strike zone, he’s going to be a run producer.”

Here is a look at others in the Reds' Minor League system:

Triple-A Louisville
Left-handed pitcher Andrew Abbott (No. 6 Reds prospect, No. 96 overall) is continuing to make a case for a big league promotion. During Wednesday's 7-1 win at Syracuse, the left-handed Abbott allowed one earned run and two hits -- including a solo homer -- over 6 1/3 innings with three walks and nine strikeouts.

Abbott is 4-0 with a 2.49 ERA over nine starts this season combined at Louisville and Double-A Chattanooga.

Double-A Chattanooga
Shortstop/third baseman Noelvi Marte (No. 2 Reds prospect, No. 21 overall) has put together a strong last month after a slow start. Marte is batting .321 with a .960 OPS and seven homers over his past 28 games.

Marte has also done a good job of cutting down on strikeouts, with 17 compared to 12 walks in that stretch of 126 plate appearances. Likely a future third baseman, Marte has played more at his natural shortstop position with Jose Torres out with an injury.

High-A Dayton
Starting pitcher Julian Aguiar allowed two runs (one earned) over 22 innings for a 0.41 ERA in May with four walks and 23 strikeouts. Overall this season, Aguiar leads the Midwest League with a 1.60 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .147.

Low-A Daytona
The Reds' 2022 first-round pick, third baseman Cam Collier (No. 4 Reds prospect, No. 53 overall), hit a home run during Saturday's 9-5 victory over Lakeland. Collier also hit a homer in Tuesday's game against Lakeland. Overall, he's batting .237 with a .745 OPS, four homers and 21 RBIs.