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It's a highlight that lives rent free in my head, informing everything I know about Christian Encarnacion-Strand to this point:

Between the reverberating crack, the announcers' glee, the pitcher's slumped shoulders and the outfielder's nonchalance as the ball disappears into the desert sky, the scene is a genuine feast for the eyes and the ears, and it was hardly an isolated event during a spring training that put Encarnacion-Strand firmly on the Fantasy Baseball radar. In fact, the 23-year-old dominated headlines for the first half of the exhibition season, going on to hit .591 (13 for 22) with four home runs and just one strikeout before being unceremoniously sent down.

I realize it's unusual to refer back to a player's spring performance in mid-July, but it's worthwhile in Encarnacion-Strand's case because all he's done since then is hit tape measure home run night after night at Triple-A Louisville -- 20 in 67 games, to be precise. He also hit 32 in 122 games last year.

Clearly, the man is capable of doing special things with the bat, so why, amid a procession of high-profile call-ups for the Reds, has it taken so long for him to get his turn? The biggest reason is he's much further down the defensive spectrum than, say, Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain. While they're both capable shortstops, Encarnacion-Strand is mostly limited to first base, where the Reds of course have Joey Votto.

He also earned low marks for plate discipline, often swinging at bad balls. To his credit, he was unusually productive on those swings, and if it continues in the majors, he could be the best bad-ball hitter we've seen since Vladimir Guerrero (the one for the Expos, not the Blue Jays). But even more to his credit, Encarnacion-Strand showed he could tone it down when needed and was far more disciplined over his last few weeks in the minors. After walking three times in his first 28 games, he walked 30 times in his next 39.

Now, he's on his way, and if he's anything like those other high-profile Reds call-ups, he can't be stopped. Of course, that's no money-back guarantee. Maybe major-league pitchers will take advantage of his aggressiveness in a way minor-league pitchers couldn't. Maybe he'll struggle to get at-bats in an increasingly crowded Reds lineup. Heck, maybe he'll get hurt. But given the wait for Encarnacion-Strand, anticipation is at a crescendo, such that word of his arrival overshadows word of Grayson Rodriguez's return, not to mention any news concerning Tyler Soderstrom, Endy Rodriguez, Oswald Peraza and Quinn Priester.

Don't worry. I'll get to some of them, too.

Possible waiver wire pickups
CIN Cincinnati • #33 • Age: 24
Rostered
56%
2023 Minors
AVG
.331
HR
20
OPS
1.042
AB
278
BB
33
K
69
For as good as Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain and Andrew Abbott have been, the one who was expected to beat them all to the majors was Encarnacion-Strand, who made a big splash this spring and then sent a tidal wave through Triple-A. He has a knack for squaring up pitches outside of the strike zone, and for as much attention as he gets for his power, his .322 batting average in more than 800 minor-league at-bats also puts him in rare company historically. Some will worry about his playing time, but the Reds don't have a dedicated DH and no longer seem as preoccupied with getting Tyler Stephenson at-bats there. If Encarnacion-Strand performs with what he's given, his share will only increase, and since he's likely to pick up first base eligibility along the way, it'll pay to stash him in the meantime.
BAL Baltimore • #38 • Age: 27
Rostered
75%
2023 Stats
W-L
6-4
ERA
3.05
WHIP
1.13
INN
91.1
BB
24
K
87
Bradish is pretty clearly the second-best pitcher on a team that's pretty clearly playoff-bound, but he's been the hard-luck case so far with only six wins to show for it. So far as I can tell, that's the only reason he's still available in a quarter of CBS Sports leagues. In fact, you could make the case he's actually the Orioles' best pitcher after his latest gem Sunday, which saw him three-hit the Marlins over 7 1/3 innings, striking out eight. It was his sixth straight start allowing two earned runs or fewer, giving him an ERA (3.05) even lower than Tyler Wells' (3.18). Bradish isn't a big strikeout pitcher, but he features two breaking balls that are near impossible to square up. If his luck changes in the win-loss department, you'll be happy to have invested now.
BAL Baltimore • #30 • Age: 24
Rostered
66%
2023 Stats
W-L
2-2
ERA
7.35
WHIP
1.74
INN
45.1
BB
21
K
56
My hunch is that Rodriguez's return to the Orioles rotation Monday goes better than his initial big-league stint. It helps that he put together a 1.69 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 13.0 K/9 in seven starts back at Triple-A, but more than the numbers, my optimism is rooted in him looking like himself for the first time, really, since suffering a lat strain last June -- an injury that may have contributed to some bad habits. His goals at Triple-A were to regain his fastball command and improve the shape of his breaking balls, and the results would suggest he's done it. Still arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball thanks to his full allotment of swing-and-miss pitches, you'll want to grab Rodriguez now in case he looks the part with tough matchups against the Dodgers and Rays this week.
WAS Washington • #5 • Age: 23
Rostered
49%
2023 Stats
AVG
.254
HR
8
SB
16
AB
295
BB
12
K
68
The sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft and a consensus top-25 prospect in each of the three years that followed, Abrams hasn't lived up to the hype so far, it's fair to say. But the main thing we were promised was stolen bases, and well, those have picked up of late. Of his 16 this season, seven have come in his past seven games, including two Friday. He hasn't been a total zero for power either, and manager Dave Martinez seems to be gaining more trust in him, moving him to the leadoff spot amid his 17-for-43 (.395) July. His on-base percentage is still pathetic, which limits his opportunity for runs, but Abrams is at least looking like a viable middle infield option for Rotisserie leagues. And if his recent stolen base surge is more than just a blip, he could become something more.
OAK Oakland • #21 • Age: 22
Rostered
33%
2023 Minors
AVG
.254
HR
20
OPS
.838
AB
280
BB
20
K
84
Though he moved quickly, Soderstrom is a prospect who lost some of his luster on the way to the majors. Plate discipline was supposed to be a strength, yet he had just a .303 on-base percentage at Triple-A Las Vegas this year. So far in the majors, though, so good. He's gone 3 for 10 with two doubles and two walks while starting all three games, including one at catcher. For now, he's only eligible at first base in CBS Sports leagues, which is itself a position of need in many leagues, but of course, the statistical threshold for a useful Fantasy catcher is much lower. Making hard contact is probably the most important quality for a hitter in today's game, and for all my other questions about Soderstrom, he does at least do that. He's worth adding in Rotisserie leagues, with all their extra lineup spots to fill.
PIT Pittsburgh • #25 • Age: 23
Rostered
17%
2023 Minors
AVG
.268
HR
6
OPS
.771
AB
272
BB
36
K
47
Rodriguez was a prospect on the ascent at the start of this year. He had just hit .323 during a breakout season, including .399 with 16 homers over his final 46 games. So what's happened to him this year? Well, he missed time early with a forearm injury, and I can't help but wonder if it impacted his production. Otherwise, it's hard to explain how that same breakthrough hitter could have an average exit velocity of 86.6 mph at Triple-A this year. Nonetheless, he's on his way to the majors, and the bar is so low for a Fantasy catcher that he's automatically worth adding in two-catcher leagues. Maybe his last 14 games at Triple-A -- in which he hit .373 with two homers, six doubles and more walks (nine) than strikeouts (seven) -- are a sign he's back on track.
BOS Boston • #50 • Age: 28
Rostered
16%
Sunday at Cubs
INN
6
H
1
ER
0
BB
4
K
9
Crawford has long been on the fringes of Fantasy relevance as a pitcher who generates whiffs and throws strikes, but Sunday's start was a rare example of it all coming together. He one-hit the Cubs over six innings, striking out nine. Just as impressive were his 17 whiffs on 89 pitches, including six on eight sweepers, a relatively new pitch that he still isn't incorporating much yet. But maybe that's going to change. After the game, pitching coach Dave Bush spoke about Crawford's need to find the right mix of his six pitches, and the right-hander echoed those sentiments. "We want to stay away from the Jell-O," Crawford said, referring to the pitches that yield the most damage. The 27-year-old remains on the fringes of Fantasy relevance until he can crank out these starts with regularity, but he's worth a speculative pickup in deeper leagues.
DET Detroit • #30 • Age: 26
Rostered
15%
2023 Stats
AVG
.274
HR
11
OPS
.862
AB
164
BB
11
K
46
Carpenter homered three times over the weekend, including twice on Saturday, and by now we should know to expect as much from him. He not only has 11 homers in 164 at-bats this year but also 15 in his last 213 at-bats dating back to last year. And it was 30 homers in 358 minor-league at-bats that punched his ticket to the majors. So why is he still available in 85 percent of CBS Sports leagues? Partly, it's because he hardly plays against left-handers, which limits his utility to five-outfielder leagues -- at least for as long as that arrangement lasts -- but even more, I think people are genuinely sleeping on him. He's sequestered in Detroit and spent much of this year on the IL with a sprained shoulder. Time to wake up.
MIA Miami • #54 • Age: 28
Rostered
12%
2023 Minors
AVG
.335
HR
13
SB
16
AB
257
BB
35
K
49
Myers' 27 years of age might scare you away, but when you realize he didn't become a hitter until age 25, having spent his first couple minor-league seasons as a pitcher, it changes your perspective. Maybe you should in fact take notice of his 13-for-32 (.406) start as a major-leaguer, which includes a home run and two doubles. For as much as anyone can tell over such a small sample, it doesn't look like smoke and mirrors. He's making the same sort of hard contact he did in the minors. Just to use Saturday's game as an example, he went only 1 for 4, but he had three batted balls of 104 mph or more and two of 107 mph or more. Not every hitter is capable of such things. No telling if Myers sticks around once Jazz Chisholm is back to full health, but he's making a compelling case.
KC Kansas City • #48 • Age: 25
Rostered
2%
Saturday vs. Rays
INN
6
H
5
ER
2
BB
1
K
11
Marsh was genuinely overpowering against the majors' No. 2 offense Saturday, striking out 11 while registering nine swinging strikes, including nine on his fastball. An ability to get whiffs with that pitch specifically is generally a good indicator of a pitcher's upside, and Marsh's 11.4 K/9 rate over 60 career minor-league starts would hint of some potential as well. Of course, he also had a 5.72 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in those 60 starts, including 4.62 and 1.52 in 14 between Double- and Triple-A this year. His Achilles heel is fastball command. When he has it, he can dominate, but he rarely has it. Still, teams in leagues of 15 or more are so hard up for pitching that it's worthwhile to gamble on upside whenever it reveals itself. Maybe Marsh builds off this outing and becomes someone worth starting in Fantasy, unlikely though it may be.