Austin Hendrick has had a tough go of things as a professional after being the Cincinnati Reds 1st round draft pick in 2020. He’s struck out in 38% of his plate appearances as a professional and generally struggled to hit. But he closed out the final five weeks of the season hitting .255/.377/.543 in 27 games for the Dayton Dragons. He did that while striking out 26% of the time – a dramatic improvement over where he had been at any other point in the season.
On Wednesday afternoon he came off of the bench for the Reds against the San Diego Padres and he unloaded for a 2-run home run to extend Cincinnati’s lead to 10-7. The home run came off of left-handed reliever Jose Lopez, who posted a 2.43 ERA last season – mostly at Double-A Montgomery where he had 91 strikeouts in 55.1 innings pitched across his 39 appearances.
First HR of the spring for 2020 first round pick Austin Hendrick??@Aust_Hendrick7 ? #RedsST pic.twitter.com/nt2ZeEF2ps
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) March 8, 2023
While it was Hendrick’s home run that gave the Reds enough runs to edge out the Padres 10-9, he wasn’t the only prospect that kept impressing with their performance on the day. Spencer Steer had a key hit early in the game, picking up a 2-run double. The infielder is now hitting .368/.429/.684 with three doubles, a home run, two walks, and four strikeouts in 21 plate appearances with the Reds this spring.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who has arguably been the best hitter in spring training across baseball, kept on keeping on. He finished the day 1-3 with a triple. He’s now hitting .600/.571/1.200 with just one strikeout in 21 plate appearances. The infielder is 12-20 with a double, triple, and three home runs.
Matt McLain, like Encarnacion-Strand has been red hot since the very beginning of camp, and like his teammate he picked up yet another extra-base hit on the day. McLain only had one at-bat on the day but he made it count as he crushed a double, drove in a run, and would later score a run. The shortstop is now hitting .500/.706/1.000 with seven walks and just two strikeouts in 17 plate appearances.
Can’t wait to see Castellini screw this up
The young guys are playing like there’s blood in the water. They aren’t fools, either. They aren’t intimidated by Newman, Reynolds, Pinder, Solak, etc., nor should they be, to say the least. A feeding frenzy, now, later, all season? I’m all for it. Hungry is good.
“Hungry is good”. I love it! Young guys gonna play this year. Maybe not in April but not very far off.
Very happy for Austin Hendricks. He has had a rough start to his pro career.
CES is a bit rough defensively and doesn’t offer much position flex. Rather than have him play twice a week in Cinct I’d rather he play every day in AAA and work on defense and left field.
McLain is more ready than I realized. But same here, if he isn’t the starter he’s better off playing in AAA every day and working on learning new positions.
Encarnacion-Strand has some positional flexibility between 1B, 3B, and DH. He’s capable, at any rate, and could end up splitting time among the three spots.
A three-headed monster of Stephenson, Votto, and CES for 1B and DH, a time share with Steer at 3B, and Stephenson playing catcher all contribute to having plenty of PAs for everyone.
Great bat speed, easy power, perhaps a platoon role at the highest level allows him to focus on that specialty. At minimum I could see that being a good possibility. He’s still young too, so if he stays healthy and stays focused on his craft, he could be a great one.