Christian Encarnacion-Strand is reportedly being called up by the Cincinnati Reds. The news broke Sunday night, just a few hours after Strand was scratched from the Louisville Bats lineup card. Furthermore, the lineup change came shortly after Cincinnati was swept by the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday afternoon. The Reds’ offense has been colder than a popsicle the last half dozen games, so Strand’s explosive bat should give them a spark. Now the question is, what corresponding move will be made, and where will he fit in Cincinnati’s high-traffic offense?
Top prospect Christian Encarnacion-Strand is being called up by the Cincinnati Reds, his agency Munger English Sports Management confirms.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) July 17, 2023
Where Does Christian Encarnacion-Strand Fit In Cincinnati?
Christian Encarnacion-Strand was traded by the Minnesota Twins at last season’s deadline in exchange for Tyler Mahle. That trade also featured current Cincinnati Red Spencer Steer. So far, throughout 2023, Strand has been in Triple-A Louisville. As a non-roster guy this past spring, Strand impressed during his playing time. Over 26 at-bats, he hit to the tune of a .577 average with four home runs. Even with the incredible production, the 23-year-old found himself as an early roster cut.
Oh my, Christian Encarnacion-Strand! Where did this ball land? pic.twitter.com/O5WmjUSeQp
— MLB (@MLB) March 4, 2023
Since arriving in Louisville, Christian Encarnacion-Strand has done nothing but hit the ball. He hit for a .331/.405/.637 slash line, 20 home runs with a 153 wRC+ per FanGraphs. His 10.4% walk rate, which was a question mark for him early, is the best of his career. So where does Strand fit in with the Cincinnati Reds? It’s hard to imagine the Reds calling him up, hitting as well as he is, just to split at-bats or be slotted as a platoon option.
Options For the Reds
The first option that can be looked at is in the catchers room. This entire season, the Reds have carried three catchers. Two of the three, Curt Casali and Luke Maile, have less than 100 at-bats on the year. Here recently Tyler Stephenson has started the majority of the games behind the plate. So much so, Casali hasn’t started a game since July 4. With Stephenson being used as the primary catcher, the likelihood of either Casali or Maile being the odd man out is a possibility. In that situation, Christian Encarnacion-Strand could slide into the everyday designated hitter role.
Another option to look at involves Christian Encarnacion-Strand as the starting first baseman. As previously mentioned, Stephenson has been playing more behind the plate. The Reds have seemingly abandoned the idea of him playing first base. With Strand being a piece of the future, it could be a good decision to let him play the position he more than likely will occupy for years to come.
Doing so would move Joey Votto out of the position. But, there’s still a way to have both in the lineup. With a move to the designated hitter role, Votto can play every day vs a righty. This move also allows the Reds to still use Kevin Newman in the lineup at DH vs a lefty, which is the only time he sees action currently. With Votto only hitting .188 in 21 plate appearances this year, and his production vs southpaws decreasing over the last few years, this is a move that could make sense.
Bringing Christian Encarnacion-Strand up is a much-needed move for the Reds. Strand is more than deserving of an opportunity at the big league level. With a player like him, teams find a way to get his bat in their lineup, and the Reds are no exception. It will be a tough decision, however, with Strand on the big league roster, expect his bat to be a major factor the rest of the way.
Main photo credits:
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK