Christian Encarnacion-Strand looked like he was gonna beat the door down to Cincinnati in spring training before a back injury sidelined the 23-year-old slugger to start the season. He’s picked up where he left off now that he’s back in the lineup at Triple-A, mashing 3 homers in his first four games with Louisville. With the Reds just having Wil Myers joining Joey Votto on the IL, there’s a big opening at first base right now, so CES could be coming up for Cincinnati any day now.
Drafted in the fourth round out of Oklahoma State by the Twins in 2021, CES has raked at every level, putting up a 1.022 OPS in his pro debut for Low-A Fort Myers, then combining for a .955 OPS, 32 homers and 114 RBIs between High-A and Double-A last year. The Reds acquired CES from the Twins in last August’s Tyler Mahle deal alongside Spencer Steer and Steve Hajjar.
CES absolutely crushed in spring training, putting up a ridiculous triple-slash of .577/.556/1.192 with 4 homers in 26 at-bats.
The Reds called up 32-year-old journeyman Matt Reynolds on Friday, then shuffled their lineup by having Steer move from third to first base and Nick Senzel coming in from the outfield to play third. Since Myers has an undisclosed illness and could be activated at any time, the Reds opted for some short-term shuffling instead of giving CES his first big-league opportunity now.
The thing is, Myers has been awful (.613 OPS) and is on just a one-year, $7.5 million deal, so the Reds could pull the plug on the struggling 32-year-old veteran in the very near future, especially if his mystery illness lingers.
CES has somewhat limited experience playing first base, with 34 career games there in the minors compared to 59 games at third base, so Cincy may just be wanting to get him a little more work at first before calling him up.
If you’re in a league with room to stash CES, the time is now to pick him up (check our Top 500 prospects to see where he is). The ball jumps off the 6-foot, 224-pounder’s bat, so just imagine what he could do playing half his games in Great American Ballpark.
If CES could get 400 ABs – and that’s a big ask with the likes of Myers and Votto standing in the way of a full run in Cincy – we could be looking at 25 homers to go with a .275 average. Dynasty-league owners should really take notice, as CES could become a 40-homer juggernaut in his prime once the path is clear to a starting role for the Reds.