116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — That otherworldly start to the season wasn’t going to continue. It just couldn’t.
The third baseman’s offensive production has comparatively quieted since, but overall he has done as much damage as any player in the Midwest League. No question.
Encarnacion-Strand had a two-run home run Sunday afternoon in C.R.’s 6-4 win over Quad Cities at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Kernels actually broke a 4-all tie on Wander Javier’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.
But back to CES. The 22-year-old former Oklahoma State Cowboy is on the league leaderboard in multiple categories.
He’s first in runs driven in with 62 and second in doubles, slugging percentage and OPS. His 18 long balls ranks fourth.
“His numbers are still really good,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “I think he’s chasing less now than at the start of the season. A little bit. He’s looking to do a lot of damage at the plate. Every time he hits the ball, it seems to be hard, for the most part. He’s taking his walks at times, continues to get better. I know his defense has been up and down, but I feel like the last week or two he has gotten back to being pretty good.”
After a quiet May in which he hit just .206, Encarnacion-Strand rebounded in June to hit .287 with nine home runs. That earned him MWL Player of the Month honors for the second time this season.
April was the first time. Duh.
That CES also drew a walk Sunday was significant. The league caught on that you don’t always necessarily have to throw him strikes to get him out.
There is a fine line between being an aggressive hitter and an overly aggressive hitter, and Encarnacion-Strand is learning that. He was getting treatment after Sunday’s game and wasn’t immediately available for comment.
“If he doesn’t chase, gets pitches in the zone, he’s going to do a lot of damage to pitches in the strike zone,” Dinkelman said. “That’s the biggest thing for him. Not expanding the zone and getting himself out.”
His defense also is a work in progress, as he made 21 errors in 54 games at third. Yet he has a good arm and shows good actions there at times.
No player is perfect. And if you can hit, you’ve got a chance.
“If he gets a ball over the plate, there’s a good chance he’s going to do some damage,” Dinkelman said.
Brent Headrick came off the COVID list to start Sunday’s game and threw well, allowing just a pop-fly home run that plopped just onto the short porch in left field in four innings. The long ball was measured at 320 feet.
The Kernels (49-32, 6-9) won four of six in this disjointed series, one that began with a rare Monday game (Fourth of July), got picked back up Wednesday, had a game get rained out Thursday, with a doubleheader played Saturday.
Cedar Rapids has Monday off, then travels to Beloit for six games. After a four-day break coinciding with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the Kernels return home to host Peoria beginning July 22.
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