No. 23: Red Sox starting pitching prospect Juan Daniel Encarnacion
Juan Daniel Encarnacion spent a hefty majority of the 2022 season in Low-A. And the right-handed pitcher did a lot of good things at the level. At the end of the year, we got a small sample of him in High-A though (10 innings to be exact).
In those 10 innings, Encarnacion built on his strong Low-A numbers. He had a decent debut, then a dominant outing to end his season. It was the perfect hype machine. Put up a good season at one level, then make your debut at the next level as the year is ending, and give fans a glimpse at your potential.
Overall, he finished with pretty strong numbers. Encarnacion posted a 4.05 ERA, .239 BAA, and 1.27 WHIP between the two levels. Over 113 1/3 innings, the 21-year-old recorded 129 strikeouts compared to 42 walks. Pretty impressively, he only allowed four home runs on the season.
Encarnacion has an interesting mix of pitches. His fastball sits in the low-mid-90s. That might not be fast compared to most pitchers anymore. However, there’s some decent movement (sink) to the pitch. He also has advanced control of his fastball. So he can put it where he wants and dot up the corners.
After that, he has a pitch that some people have called a slider and others have called a curveball. That means we’re going in the middle and I’m going to claim they’re all wrong and that it’s a slurve. The slurve sits in the mid-high-70s, sometimes sneaking into the 80s. Doesn’t seem to have the best command of the pitch. It looks a lot more devastating at certain times, and not all that threatening at others. Definitely potential to be a wipeout pitch though. Can have a sharp and sweeping break.
Finally, there’s a mid-80s changeup. This one is interesting. As anyone that’s ever heard me speaking about pitches knows, the changeup is the best pitch in baseball in my opinion and you can’t change my mind on this. Encarnacion has a changeup that can absolutely disappear on hitters low in the zone. The issue is sometimes he leaves it up and loses some of the dip. Making it essentially an 85-MPH fastball down the plate. As the year went on, it felt like he was getting a better feel for the pitch though, and it got nastier and more consistent in the later months.
Overall, it was a great first season in a full level for Juan Daniel Encarnacion. The Red Sox have plenty of pitches prospects, so it’s easy for him to get buried in the headlines, but he was one of the more consistent pitchers in the minors. He’s improved already and his velocity has gone up over the years. If that continues to trend, he could skyrocket up the ranks and project as an obvious starting rotation piece.