Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit the cover off of the ball in spring training. He was hitting .556 and slugging 1.192 in March when the Cincinnati Reds decided to send him back to minor league camp. While he was there he had a herniated disc issue and that led to him starting the year on the injured list. Last weekend he joined the Triple-A Louisville Bats after missing the first three weeks of the season and he’s been hitting well since being activated.

He’s only played in three games so far, but he’s gong 4-13 with a walk and a strikeout. He doubled in his debut. Last night he hit his first home run of the season.

While the sample size for everything is small, and it’s almost assuredly going to change with time, Christian Encarnacion-Strand has three strikeouts between his 42 plate appearances this spring and regular season. Last year in the minor leagues he struck out 137 times in 538 plate appearances. That didn’t stop him from hitting .304/.368/.587 with 31 doubles, 5 triples, 32 home runs, and driving in 114 runs,  but it was still a strikeout rate of 25.5%. If he’s going to find a way to strike out less than that – things could start to get real interesting, real quick.

For now it’s simply just something to keep an eye on and if he and Triple-A pitchers start to change things up a little bit.


We usually don’t jump in to add more information, but Louisville played an afternoon game that started about an hour after we published this article. Christian Encarnacion-Strand went 5-6 with a double and two home runs. He drove in six. Four games, three home runs, two strikeouts.

The Reds Bullpen

The Cincinnati bullpen looked like it was going to be a problem early on, but they’ve turned things around over the last few weeks and have been quite good. The bullpen currently has a 3.40 ERA with 36 walks, 105 strikeouts, and they’ve allowed seven home runs in 95.1 innings pitched.

Alex Young has led the way so far. The lefty who signed with the Reds in free agency was coming off of a season where he posted a 2.36 ERA in 26.2 innings (all but 0.1 with San Francisco), but couldn’t find a big league job and had to settle for a minor league deal with a big league invite to spring training. Well, he made the team and has allowed just one run in 11.1 innings for the Reds so far and has just two walks to go with 16 strikeouts.

Alexis Diaz is right there with him, mostly. On April 8th he allowed three runs against the Phillies in an inning of work. In the other eight games this season he’s allowed one hit and one walk while striking out 13 batters in 8.0 innings.

Andrew Abbott’s Triple-A debut

After making a mockery of the Double-A Southern League in his first three starts, posting a 1.15 ERA (that should have been 0.00 if a pop up lost in the lights was allowed to be ruled as an error) that included 36 strikeouts and just three walks in 15.2 innings, Andrew Abbott was promoted to Triple-A and made his debut with Louisville yesterday. He had a solid debut with the Bats, giving up two earned runs in 5.0 innings – both runs coming on a 5th inning homer – while walking three batters and striking out seven.

Nick Senzel’s walk-off

The Cincinnati Reds aren’t hitting for any kind of power this season. Their team leader in home runs was designated for assignment this week. Their isolated power (SLG-AVG) is second to last in baseball, trailing just the Washington Nationals. Two teams – the Dodgers and Rays, have doubled up the Reds isolated power number so far this season.

When Nick Senzel connected for a walk-off home run on Wednesday afternoon, it was the first home run the team had hit in eight games. In terms of plate appearances for the team without a home run, it was the longest one since August of 2000 according to Joel Luckhaupt.

The lack of power is apparent when looking at the stat sheet. Tyler Stephenson is slugging .345. Jose Barrero is slugging .300. Wil Myers is slugging .321. Jake Fraley is slugging .300. Kevin Newman is slugging .340. Jonathan India has been racking up doubles, but his one home run thus far has his slugging percentage at .404 – which by comparison is incredible, but it’s still not all that good.

79 Responses

  1. Rednat

    who would have ever imagined that the reds would have more stolen bases than homers at this point in the season. I actually enjoy this brand of baseball a little more. I think with the speed game we at least have a chance out in oakland or when we go to detroit and kc with the bigger ball parks now

  2. LDS

    I’m not overly worried about HRs at thsi point. The obsession with power has arguably hurt the Reds in past seasons. Just put the ball in play, drop a bunt, be aggressive on the basepaths, go for the extra base sometimes, and steal it when you can’t stretch it. Ignore the analytics craze and just play plain, old-fashioned baseball. Be a black swan.

    • Mike Adams

      You gotta have some down-the-line and gapper doubles which always have been part of plain, old-fashioned baseball.

    • JayTheRed

      HR’s are great but I too like this style of baseball much more.

    • Melvin

      I’d much rather see this style of baseball than go back to the HR, BB, K thing. Home runs will come especially when we get McLain, CES, and then DLC up. I’m not a great fan of the sac bunt but after the last few years I realize even more how it is necessary to win at times which is the bottom line.

  3. Chris

    Watch the video of CES’s HR. Nobody even moves on the opposing team it’s hit so deep. 🙂

    • David

      The ball just jumps off his bat. Reminds me of Johnny Bench in his prime. So very strong, very short, quick stroke. Natural power.
      Hope he gets to “work on” those things that got him sent down during Spring Training.
      In my opinion, barring any physical ailments, he’s ready for The Show.

      But the Big Brains with the Reds probably want to watch him for a couple months in AAA ball. And, it keeps his Arb clock from starting, too.

      • PTBNL

        But the Big Brains with the Reds probably want to watch him for a couple months in AAA ball. And, it keeps his Arb clock from starting, too.

        Name one recent player that they have done that to?

  4. JB WV

    Coming off a back injury and still hitting speaks volumes. Keep it up CES and hope to see you soon!
    Reds we’re dreadful in the early 80’s but guys like Larkin and Davis started filtering in. If management doesn’t screw it up, could have the same dynamic.

  5. Chris

    Imagine this:
    India 2b
    Friedl CF
    CES DH
    Stephenson C
    Votto 1b
    Steer 3b
    Senzel LF
    McLain RF


    If we could see something like this by mid year, it sure would be exciting to watch. Yes my lineup is probably off by a lot, but at this point, it’s hard to know where these kids would start out in the lineup and how they would produce.

    • SultanofSwaff

      I’ve been thinking along the same lines…..about how different this team could look maybe by June. You’re looking at 4 guys who could be meaningful contributors in their first season: Abbott, CES, McClain, EDLC. The only difference for me is Barrero is my SS and EDLC would be in CF with his 99th percentile speed and plus arm. McClain could get multiple starts per week at SS/2b/3b. The odd man out imo is Senzel. Not to poo-poo his last 2 games, but the Rangers weren’t too smart feeding him offspeed stuff. Other than swinging thru it, the only thing he can do with a fastball so far is to punch it to RF….not sure his career is sustainable without some real improvement in that area.

      • Chris

        I personally don’t see Barrero every becoming a solid player. That’s just my gut. As for Senzel, I can’t explain why he just hasn’t hit that good, but I don’t believe hitters like him forget how to hit. This kid was the best pure hitter in his draft. I just think if for once injury issues never crept in his mind, he may actually hit. Anyway, we shall see.

      • Dirty447

        Chris, I totally agree with you on Barrero. You’re right on Senzel being the best pure hitter in the 2016 draft, also. That being said, the 2016 draft class was pretty weak. I desperately want to see Senzel live up to his potential, but if it hasn’t happened by now, I’m not very optimistic that it ever will.

  6. LDS

    Myers to the IL, Ashcraft to bereavement, recalled Legumina. I haven’t seen the Myers replacement yet. I guess we’ll have to wait for Doug’s writeup to clarify all the moves.

  7. docproc

    Just saw that Wil Myers was put on the IL (back dated to Wednesday).
    With Votto on the IL and Vosler at Louisville (he cleared waivers), seems like a good time to call up CES for the road trip until Myers is ready to play again.

  8. old-school

    It will be Matt Reynolds. How does the 60 day IL work? Could the Reds move Votto to the 60 day retroactively?

    Can you imagine bell with both Reynolds and Newman to plug and move and rotate? We will need some motion sickness medication if that happens.

    • LDS

      Yes, old-school, I can, but I’d rather I didn’t have to. If Bell has both of them, Barrero’s career is over before it’s truly begun.

    • David

      We should have a name for all this.

      We could call it…..Bell Ball. C’mon guys, let’s play some Bell Ball. Find some second rate, below replacement level players that have plenty of Veteran Presence, and plug ’em into the line up.

      We certainly don’t want to play some incredibly talented young hitter line Christian Encarncion-Strand in their. That upsets the percentages.

      Bell Ball. Catch the fevah!

      • wkuchad

        Are you all watching the games? Sure I have criticisms of Bell this year. But look who’s getting the majority of at-bats so far – all of our ‘younger’ guys and Myers.

        I agree Barrero needs more at bats and Newman less, but Bell isn’t playing washed up veterans on a regular basis. He’s playing India, Friedl, Stephenson, Steer, Fraley…

      • LDS

        @wkuchad, he isn’t because he has fewer to play. Unless Barrero is injured, he should be the starting SS every day. It may not workout but we’ll never know the way it’s going now. Newman should DH against LH’ers and otherwise be unseen.

      • Melvin

        “Unless Barrero is injured, he should be the starting SS every day. It may not workout but we’ll never know the way it’s going now. Newman should DH against LH’ers and otherwise be unseen.”

        I agree although I’m not sold on Newman being at the DH on all LH pitchers either. If McLain, CES, and DLC come up soon then Newman’s days should be numbered especially with McLain. I definitely don’t want to give Bell the opportunity to play him when those guys are around. When it comes to Newman at least I think Bell feels like playing him is like playing himself. He deserves it.

    • Jim Walker

      Watching Bats game vs Iowa Cubbies right now at 2:44PM EDT Thurs and Reynolds is not playing but is listed as a bench player in the box score appendix (FWTW, or not)

    • Melvin

      “Can you imagine bell with both Reynolds and Newman to plug and move and rotate? We will need some motion sickness medication if that happens.”

      Scary – Bells dream maybe.

  9. Doug Gray

    Christian Encarnacion-Strand is 2-2 with a home run through the first 2 innings of this afternoon’s game for Louisville. Just for those who wanted to keep track at home….

    • docproc

      He needs to hop on a plane to Oakland after today’s game.

    • David

      CES has a lot to work on. Unlike Vosler, who was just so ready to hit for the Reds.

      A lot to work on. 😉

    • old-school

      Thats off a rehabbing Kyle Hendricks. His location must be off and his velo is batting practice speed. McLain and EDLC stuffing the stat sheet as well.

    • SultanofSwaff

      Such an advanced hit tool for CES. The HR was hit to RF on an off-speed pitch. Before that he singles to LF by pulling his hands in so as not to get jammed.

    • Optimist

      It’s still April, it’s still just 25 games, it’s still just this week for CES to return, it’s still probably a rehabbing Hendricks as noted, it’s still likely Reynolds coming up for Myers, but a big BUT for how long CES needs to keep it going before he’s called up.

      McLain still ahead in the on-fire-forcing-the-issue category, but the position is open for CES. If neither falters, both should have made their debuts by June 1st.

      Finally, there’s not been a lot of discussion about Young, but what have we missed there? He clearly performed well last year, has plenty of experience, doesn’t seem to have any baggage, is LH – what have we missed – a soft-tosser, only 1-2 plus pitches, just mediocre but going thru a strong stretch now, what?

  10. old-school

    Matt Reynolds is not in the lineup at AAA today.

    • David

      He’s in the Twilight Zone somewhere…..getting his bags packed to get to Oakland for Friday night.

    • MBS

      That double he had off the top of the wall in the 2nd was impressive, AAA is quickly becoming the team to watch. I can’t wait for the core of those guys to graduate from the minors.

  11. SultanofSwaff

    Goodness, poor Wil Benson, now 1-22 at Louisville.

    • Optimist

      True, but IIRC it’s a curiosity that he has 6 BBs in the past two games. That is a part of the game so many players need to work on, and if it’s anything other than poor pitching to him, it’s very interesting.

    • wkuchad

      I was there for his one and only hit in Louisville. Playing for the opposing team was former Red Billy Hamilton, who had a slighter higher OPS than Benson.

    • Jim Walker

      Yeah, I was thinking if CES or anyone else not currently on the 40 man got called up, would Benson could be the guy DFA to open a 40 man spot.

      • Mario

        Wow, interesting suggestion Jim. I would be shocked if the team gave up on Benson so quickly after the trade. I would like to go back and check the names of the folks on RLN who were leading the Benson hype train in ST – not to brag, just for a chuckle.

      • Melvin

        Poor Benson. He was 1-5 with a BB today. He’s now at .077/.333/.115.

      • Melvin

        If the Reds keep down CES or anyone else for that matter in order to keep Benson on the 40 man roster then they’re even nuttier than I though. Let’s just be nice and say I wouldn’t agree with that. 🙂 Have to move on. Who would pick him up anyway? He’ll most likely just end up back at AAA. Don’t you think?

    • Redsvol

      Cleveland smoked on that trade. Win some, lose some. Krall has definitely won some.

  12. TR

    Pulling for the Giants today in the getaway game against the Cards in S.F.

    • JayTheRed

      Unfortunately, they failed badly.

      • TR

        Pressure on Cards with poor April start. Pitt is leading the way with Reds coming on strong as young players are being called up.

  13. old-school

    WE need a RLN investigative unit. Any one at the AAA game live with binoculars to see if Reynolds is in the dugout???? Anybody know a guy who knows a guy???

  14. Jim Walker

    Oops, he just did it again. CES 3 hit a run bomb to left center.

  15. Jim Walker

    And Benson got a double behind the second CES HR

  16. MBS

    CES with 2 HR’s, and neither were against Hendricks. With CES, and EDLC heating up things are getting exciting. Those 2 plus McLain are about to push some dead weight out of the Reds roster.

    • CI3J

      This is my dream lineup I hope we see sometime this year:

      3B India
      CF Friedl
      DH Steer
      C Stephenson
      LF Fraley
      1B CES
      RF EDLC
      2B McClain
      SS Barrero

      C Robinson
      C Casali
      INF Senzel
      OF Ramos
      OF Hopkins

      I really hope they start working out EDLC in the outfield. He seems to have the perfect blend of talents to really succeed out there.

      • BK

        I agree (except that you have 14 players listed for 13 roster spots). If the lineup works out like you and I hope, the Reds likely won’t carry three catchers. The Reds are doing this now to keep Stephenson’s bat in the lineup every day. A better lineup will relieve the need for him to play every day and let him transition to playing two-thirds of the games as a catcher and just a handful of games as DH/1B.

        The linchpin is Barrero; can he hit well enough to play daily? He now has a reverse split against LHP that didn’t show in prior seasons. With modest improvement in hitting and better consistency defensively, he’s a solid MLB starter giving the Reds many options.

        Available payroll could be used to bring in another solid catcher and for another back-end bullpen piece opening the Red’s competitive window beginning next year.

      • MBS

        @CI3J, Those are the 9 starters I’d like to see, I’ve given up on who plays where, it seems to open oneself up to unimportant criticism, but if you give me those 9 taking swings everyday I’d be very happy.

  17. docproc

    CES just got his 5th hit of the day.

    • David

      He’s been working on “things”. Maybe July. 😉

      We mock Bell and Top Management, but …this is only one game. Should give CES, EDLC at at least a month or so, and make sure they are not still nagging with what set them on the shelf in the first place.

      And McClain… if he’s coming up, he should be somewhere that he plays everyday. That could mean some roster or lineup jugglin’. Some decisions have to be made.
      Does McClain come into play short? Does Barrero go to the shelf?
      What about EDLC, who wants to come up and play SS? (eventually, he will be here)
      Does McClain come to play 2nd, and move India to his natural position, 3rd base?
      Where does Steer go? 1st base?
      Decisions, decisions. McClain is also not on the 40 man. Somebody has to go to make room. Who goes? Siani or Benson (neither hitting worth crap in AAA)?
      Newman? Eat his contract? (8 ball says….”Maybe”)
      One of the plethora of catchers? (8 ball says….”Likely”). Eat Maile’s contract, also over $1 mill?
      I don’t like the idea of McClain going to the outfield; that proved to be a bit of a career killer with Nick Senzel. Let him play at a position he actually knows.

      My own dark theory is that Bell has been told to play Newman to showcase him, so that they can trade him to get out from under his contract. Somebody might want to latch onto him that has SS problems. He’s not terrible, just a about a replacement level player.
      You don’t win with a team full of replacement level players.
      That is today’s insightful babble from me.

      • BK

        My theory on Barrero is that he played winter ball and didn’t get the same break other players did–trying to avoid having him hit a wall in the long season. Under the best circumstances, Newman will net only a modest return.

      • Melvin

        “Under the best circumstances, Newman will net only a modest return.”

        Sounds good. Let’s find out now ASAP. LOL Nothing against Newman. It’s just having him with Bell as his manager is a bad combination.

  18. John

    So what I am hearing is we don’t have a 1B and CES is tearing up thru 3ish games….

    What does he need to prove he is going to hit 280 and have 30+ homers as a 1B and that’s above average…

    • Redsvol

      I’m very happy with CES performance since the trade. But he needs to work on several things – defense is 50% of the game. He needs to play 3rd base, 1st base, and I believe he needs to start learning some left field. Its a ton of work to learn how to play a passable major league defense, at any position. And its very hard to do it in the big leagues.

      If Kyle Shwarber can learn how to play left field, CES definitely can – and should. Votto is coming back, and when he does at-bats will be hard to come by if a player doesn’t have much position flex.

      • JayTheRed

        Disagree, Work him at 1b for the next half month to one month. Bring him up and let him shine at 1b. This obsession with knowing 3 positions or more for versatility is so annoying. I honestly feel like it is what contributed to Senzel’s problems.

      • Melvin

        I think the Reds have been messing with Senzel from the very start when they kept him off the opening day roster his first year even though he was obviously ready. Honestly though I don’t think most players are hindered as much as he was when switching positions. Having one set position is the best way but when you have several good hitting young guys playing the same positions it’s either that or trade em. I’d rather them playing every day in a relatively new position rather than keeping them down or worse on the bench. It doesn’t have to be permanent.

      • LDS

        Votto isn’t likely to be a force this year. If he is great, I’ll enjoy my crow sandwich. Even if he does hit, his defense at 1B isn’t great. DH him when he returns and give 1B to someone with a future.

  19. Melvin

    Today on the Farm in Louisville:

    De La Cruz – 4H 3R 3RBI with a double, a triple and a stolen base

    CES – 5H 2R 6RBI with a double and two HR

    McLain – 2H 4R 2RBI 2BB with a double .329/.470/.633

    McLain is the first to come up and becomes the every day CF until further notice

    Myers & Newman can take a back seat.

    Barrero plays SS period.

    If Senzel does indeed play 3B then Steer at 1B or even RF

    • Optimist

      This is very very close to optimal. Especially keep Senzel and Barrero at 3rd and SS. Maybe McLain and India alternate at 2nd and DH? Point being to keep the infielders in the infield as long as possible. Please no more OF tryouts in MLB.

      • Jim Walker

        McLain would be something of a ‘tweener as CF. He played there at least 50 games at the college D1 level (UCLA) as a freshman because he was “blocked” by an upperclassman. However, if the Reds want to use him as a CF or other OF guy, I hope they get him a couple of weeks in CF at Louisville to get him up to speed and verify he is up to it.

      • Melvin

        Personally I’d bring him up now and let him relearn it up at the ML level. It’s not like it’s going to hurt the team’s chances of fighting for first place. More the opposite most likely.

      • BK

        I very much agree with Jim. If they want an infielder playing outfield at the MLB level, they should play them at outfield first in the minors.

        One of the most challenging things in baseball is knowing when to promote players. The notion that a player can learn as well at the MLB level vs. AAA is contradicted by the multi-level minor league system that MLB has used for decades. Both confidence and skill are hugely crucial in pro baseball. Both can easily be hampered by promoting players too fast or too slow. Players should be promoted when “ready,” which is hard to discern only from watching games and reading box scores.

      • Melvin

        What have we got to lose? He can always be sent back down. A player’s bat being ready is more important than his position starting out.

      • BK

        @ Melvin, developmental time on a good prospect if he’s called up before being prepared to succeed. Barrero is a good example of a player who wasn’t ready in 2020 and has taken much longer to develop. All 30 teams use their farm systems to prep players.

      • Melvin

        If a player is killing the ball at AAA and playing good defense he is ready. Using Barrero as an example is not always accurate. Every player and every situation is different.

      • BK

        @Melvin, it is a fact that Barrero floundered when called up prematurely. He had only played A+ ball and was overmatched. It didn’t help the team, and it didn’t help him. All facts, but alas, it’s just one data point.

        “Personally I’d bring him up now and let him relearn it up at the ML level.”

        We know McLain has played OF in college as a freshman–nothing since. We know the Reds aren’t playing him in the OF–not a ringing endorsement of your suggestion. He’s not playing good defense at the position you’re suggesting he play. Playing good defense at 2B/SS doesn’t make a player MLB-ready at the position of an RLN commenter’s choice, no matter how passionate and persistent the commenter may be.

      • Melvin

        Well we’re not talking about calling McLain up from A+ ball are we? We also don’t know that he can’t play at least average defense in the outfield do we? 🙂 The fact is, being the athlete that he is and especially having played there before, that most likely he CAN at least be an average outfielder. There is also no doubt that he is hitting the ball very well (@AAA) with very good plate discipline. If he’s not ready to come up and see what he can do I don’t know who is. .329/.470/.633 after 23 games and almost 100 PA.

      • BK

        He’s hitting well, no doubt. The sample size is still pretty small. Last year he disappointed. If he keeps it up, he’ll be up soon enough.

        Lots of excitement after yesterday’s offensive outburst. I watched the game … 34 runs and 42 hits generate a lot of excitement and recency bias. Like I said, I’m with Jim. If the Reds want him to play OF, then start in the minors. You have my full support to call them and make the suggestion.

      • Melvin

        I don’t know about Jim but for some reason my calls aren’t being accepted by David Bell. It’s almost like he’s ignoring me or something. lol Maybe you can get through BK. 🙂

  20. Harold

    Hey, David Bell when these young players get to Cincinnati, just let them play. No platoon, no coddling them, just get out of the way and let them do their thing. I have no confidence in him making a good decision. I haven’t seen him make the correct decision very often. He doesn’t seem to be able to get out of his own way. As a loyal Reds fan, I’m pulling for him to turn it around as our manager. I have been trying to understand him for 3 years now. Hoping for the best. Go Reds!!!

    • wkuchad


      India, Friedl, Stephenson, Steer, Fraley – some of the youngest players on the team and getting by far the most playing time

      • Redsvol

        I know. Who was he supposed to play last year. India played right away, they traded barnhardt so Stephenson could play almost right away, Steer has played after a brief introduction in Louisville.

        David bell has his faults but playing young players is not one of them. Jose barerro is getting plenty of at bats. He needs to start doing something with them – which I believe he will.

        Also, platooning is done by every team. It’s a clear advantage that must be used. Maybe not as often in pinch hitting situations but against starting pitchers it’s the right strategy

  21. The

    Tough decisions as we know McLain, Elly, CES will need spots CES deserves 1B.

    Everyone is suggesting McLain or Elly to switch positions and I’m hesitant. McLain is a ball player with limited OF experience, imo he would be an above average defensive 2b, what’s the problem? India plays there? Trade India? Move him to LF?
    Barrero is still an above average defensive SS with a cannon. Seems dumb to move him. Elly is our star should he play CF with his speed, will he turn to be Senzel a bust? The problem is Steer looks good at 3B. Too many infielders, Marte is a while away but he is the “supposed” 3b of the future.

    My guess is management extends or traded India.