It was a busy week for the Cincinnati Reds on the trade front, and on Tuesday afternoon they made two more deals that brought in prospects (as well as one “trade” of cash for veteran big league catcher who is currently in the minors and not on the 40-man roster that brings them Austin Romine).
The big trade was the one that sent Tyler Mahle to the Minnesota Twins for three prospects. Cincinnati acquired infielders Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand, as well as left-handed pitcher Steven Hajjar in the deal. About 45 minutes later the Reds sent Brandon Drury to the San Diego Padres for shortstop Victor Acosta.
Spencer Steer Scouting Report
Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 185 lbs.
Born: December 7, 1997
Minnesota selected Spencer Steer in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft out of Oregon. After two solid years in 2019 and 2021, Steer has broken out in 2022, showing more power and cutting down on his strikeout rate significantly. He began the season in Double-A and hit .307/.385/.591 in 35 games before being promoted to Triple-A. Things slowed down a bit in St. Paul as he’s hit .242/.345/.485 in 48 games. Much of the decline seems to be connected to the fact that his BABIP went from a reasonable .318 in Double-A to a low .248 in Triple-A. There may be a reason it’s low, but without access to the kind of information the teams have, it’s tough to know if it’s a bit more bad luck or a bit more “not making good contact often enough”, though the fact that he’s still got plenty of extra-base hits may negate that latter one a bit.
Where Spencer Steer winds up on the defensive spectrum is a bit up in the air. He’s been playing shortstop, and he can play there if you need him to, but he’s a better fit at second or third base. His bat will play just fine at either position. But especially when considering all of the other shortstops in the Reds organization, it seems that he’s going to wind up playing somewhere that’s not shortstop in the near future.
Despite his current average in Triple-A being .242, he projects to hit for a good average in the future and he’s also projected to hit for above-average power. It’s not hard to envision a .265 hitter with 20+ home runs down the line in the big leagues.
Baseball America had Steer rated as the Twins #4 prospect in the system and 97th overall in all of minor league baseball in their mid-season update. You can see his career stats here.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand Scouting Report
Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 224 lbs.
Born: December 1, 1999
After hitting 33 home runs in 81 games for Yavapai Junior College and then 15 more in 56 games for Oklahoma State as a junior in 2021, the Twins selected Christian Encarnacion-Strand in the 4th round of last year’s draft. He went out at hit .391/.424/.598 in 22 games for Low-A Fort Myers last season that included a monster 456-foot home run. This year he began the season in Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League and hit .296/.370/.599 with 23 doubles, 3 triples, and 20 home runs in 74 games. He was promoted to Double-A Wichita a few weeks ago and has continued to crush the ball, hitting .333/.400/.685 with 5 more home runs, 2 more doubles, and a triple in 13 games. His first home run in Double-A went 484 feet, just in case you were wanting another fun stat.
Offensively he’s shown some improvement on his approach versus what it was in college, and he’s been able to maintain his plus power while doing so. The power is certainly the calling card on his scouting report, earning plus-plus raw power grades at times. There’s a chance he hits for a solid average down the line, too, though that’s less certain than how his power will play. Defensively he’s been at third base for a majority of his time as a professional and to say it’s gone poorly would be an understatement. In his 67 starts over the last two seasons he’s posted an .876 fielding percentage at the position. He’s had some experience at first base, playing in 19 games there since being drafted, and it might be time to just make that move a permanent one.
He was rated by Baseball America as the Twins #14 prospect in the mid-season update. You can see his career stats here.
Victor Acosta Scouting Report
Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 170 lbs.
Born: June 10, 2004
Victor Acosta was one of the top prospects in the 2021 international signing class and got a $1,800,000 bonus from the Padres in January of 2021. He had a good debut in the Dominican Summer League last year as a 17-year-old, hitting .285/.431/.484 with 26 steals, 12 doubles, 5 triples, 5 home runs, 38 walks, and 45 strikeouts in 240 plate appearances. This season he moved up to the Arizona Complex League and things have slowed down a little bit. The switch hitter has played in 32 games and has 3 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs, and just 5 steals in 12 attempts while hitting .243/.346/.360 in 131 plate appearances.
As you would expect from a guy who got $1.8M signing bonus less than 18 months ago, Victor Acosta has plenty of tools and projection in his game. While there may not be a ton of physical projection left, there’s a lot of development in the future from the 18-year-old. He’s got plus speed, a plus arm, above-average power potential – particularly from the left side, and his hit tool could be above-average down the line, too.
Victor Acosta is very farm from reaching the big leagues. He’s basically just now getting his career started and he’s still just 18-years-old. He’s the same age as kids that just graduated high school this year, so it’s likely going to require plenty of patience. His age and how far away he is from the big leagues means there’s a ton of risk, but he’s also the sort of lottery ticket that has a big pay off if you get the right numbers.
He was rated by Baseball America as the Padres #11 prospect in their mid-season update. You can see his career stats here.
Steven Hajjar Scouting Report
Height: 6′ 5″ | Weight: 215 lbs.
Born: August 7, 2000
The Twins 2nd round pick in 2021, Steven Hajjar was the only pitcher acquired by the Reds on Tuesday. The left-handed start didn’t pitch after the draft last season. He began this year in Low-A with Fort Myers in the Florida State League (the same league that the Daytona Tortugas play in). He made nine starts before hitting the injured list and missing the next six weeks before returning on July 17th. Minnesota has limited his pitch counts all year and he’s yet to throw more than 82 pitches in a game, and he’s only topped 75 pitches three times in his 13 games. He’s been very good when on the mound, posting a 2.47 ERA for Fort Myers with 71 strikeouts in 43.2 innings. Hajjar has walked 22 batters, though, which is a bit higher than you’d like to see from a college pitcher in Low-A.
Fastball: It’s mostly worked in the 90-93 range this season, averaging 91.7 MPH and has topped out at 95.2. There’s a lot of movement with the pitch and combined with some deception it allows the pitch to play up beyond the velocity.
Slider: The pitch works in the low-to-mid 80’s and is a solid offering.
Change Up: His best pitch when it comes to the raw scouting grades, it works in the low-80’s and flashes itself as above-average to plus.
Curveball: A fringy offering that he doesn’t throw as often as his other secondary pitches, the curveball works in the mid-to-upper 70’s.
He’s got enough stuff that he could carve out a career as a starting pitcher if he gets the most out of his projection. If he’s going to remain a starter in the long run he will need to cut down on the walks, and he may need to be a little more consistent with his fastball velocity as at times it’ll dip into the 88-91 MPH range and that’s just real tough to get away with at the big league level today.
Baseball America rated him as the Twins 11th best prospect in their mid-season update. You can see his career stats here.
Unlike the deal that involved Luis Castillo that I said that I hated but felt the team got a good return for, these two deals aren’t like that. Tyler Mahle is a good, but not elite starting pitcher. He may have more success outside of Great American Ball Park where he just seemed to struggle all too often, and maybe he can turn into a much stronger version of himself in a park that’s a little less home run friendly. The team still could have tried to re-sign him and keep him around, and perhaps they did and things just weren’t going to work out. With that said, it feels like the Reds got back a good set of prospects for Mahle from the Twins.
With Brandon Drury, he was a free agent to be. The Reds were probably not going to try and re-sign him, and Nick Krall even said the other day that they haven’t had those discussions. A late spring signing on a league minimum deal turned into one of the top international prospects from just one year ago? It’s tough to say that didn’t work out well for Cincinnati.