The Twins had a simple message for first baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand as he arrived for his first spring training: Just keep doing what you’re doing.
Who could argue? Encarnacion-Strand easily transitioned from demolishing Big 12 Conference pitchers at Oklahoma State to preying on Low-A pitchers at Fort Myers, hitting .391/.424/.598 in his 22-game pro debut.
Now the Twins realize they were asking too little, because Encarnacion-Strand is doing even more.
“We really liked what we saw out of him at the plate, obviously,” Twins farm director Alex Hassan said, “but he’s gotten our attention defensively, too.”
Encarnacion-Strand was a third baseman in college, but the Twins played their 2021 fourth-round pick primarily at first base last summer. They had tested him at a workout camp in California before the draft, and while he preferred his college position, the Twins chose him without a clear conviction about where he would play.
Their thinking changed when he reported to camp in February looking for opportunities at his old position.
He was pretty convincing.
“He moves pretty well at third base. He’s looked really good over there,” Hassan said. “He has good footwork, and really just has a good, natural feel for the position. He can throw from a few different angles, and overall just showed he’s got some skills at that spot.”
That’s just added value for a prospect who has already announced his arrival from the batter’s box. In 22 games last year, Encarnacion-Strand collected 34 hits, eight for extra bases, including four home runs.
“It’s been impressive to watch,” Hassan said. “He’s just a guy who works really hard, does what’s asked, and he’s been a joy to work with to this point.”