With their fourth round selection, pick #128 overall, the Twins finally chose a player that seemingly fits their prior college slugger, corner defensive position loving patterns.
Encarnacion-Strand blasted 33 homers in two junior college seasons in Arizona before spending this past spring in Stillwater, OK playing third base for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. There, he won Big 12 Conference newcomer of the year honors on the back of a .361 / .442 / .661, 15 home run campaign.
He’s clearly demonstrated the ability to hit for power against high level amateur competition, but he’s not without question marks (as is to be expected at this point in the draft). This excerpt from the MLB.com scouting reports (where he was ranked #208) points to some concerns about the mechanics of his swing that lead him to swing and miss against velocity and spin, and the lack of a clear defensive home:
For all the damage Encarnacion-Strand does at the plate, scouts don’t love his right-handed swing. He has an unconventional load and an uphill bat path that leave him vulnerable to high velocity and quality breaking balls. His proponents believe a pro team could help him improve his stroke and get 25 homers per year out of him if he also mitigates an aggressive approach. There are questions about Encarnacion-Strand’s defensive home as well. He has the hands and strong arm to remain at third base, but he’s a well below-average runner with limited range. His only alternative would be first base unless a club wanted to try to turn him into a catcher.
Despite those concerns, Encarnacion-Strand has a chance and seems to fit within one of the Twins favorite profiles for college hitters.
Three years ago, after losing a scholarship to college baseball powerhouse Oregon State due to poor grades, his outlook didn’t seem as rosy as it does today. Encarnacion-Strand’s story was chronicled earlier this year in a profile by The Oklahoman and Encarnacion-Strand deserves credit for the work he did to put himself in position to get this opportunity with the Twins (he was also previously a 34th round choice of Seattle, but did not sign).
The coaching staff at Oklahoma State raves above Encarnacion-Strand in the piece above. For what it is worth, that coaching staff also includes two former major league hitters — Matt Holliday and Robin Ventura. The Twins new draft pick certainly impressed them with his work ethic and strength.
In terms of tools, MLB.com put above average grades on his power (50) and arm strength (55), while grading his hit tool and fielding abilities as just below average (45).
Overall, he has some things to work with and the Twins will try to coach the necessary adjustments for him to be successful, but he’s coming from a track record of success.
Best of luck to Christian with the Twins!