Ruben Ibarra missed the first three weeks of the regular season. The first baseman had a hamstring injury during spring training and had some catching up to do before he could get on the field in the regular season. He’s been making up for lost time ever since he joined Dayton earlier this week.

On Friday night he hit an absolute nuke into the night to tie the game up for Dayton in the 8th inning. The home run completed a comeback that saw the Dragons down 9-0 as they entered the bottom of the 7th inning. Blake Dunn hit a big 3-run home run to cap off an 8-run 7th inning, Ibarra then hit a ball somewhere out of the Milky Way, and two batters later it was Justice Thompson hitting a go-ahead homer.

Unfortunately for Dayton, they would lose the game in extra-innings 12-11. Still, for those who stuck around at Day Air Ballpark on Friday night, it had to be an exciting final 90 minutes even if it did wind up being a loss.

Getting back to Ruben Ibarra – still not sure that I believe that estimated distance on that one, which is 436 feet. What I do believe is the 116 MPH exit velocity that registered with it. While the home run distance isn’t the top in the organization this year, that exit velocity sure is. The first baseman finished the night 2-3 with a walk and that home run. He’s now hitting .364/.556/.818 with one strikeout and four walks in his four games played.

Blake Dunn keeps it going

There have been a few stand out performances in April on the Cincinnati Reds farm and Blake Dunn’s among that top group. He had another big night in Dayton. You saw the home run in the video above, but he also singled, walked, was hit by a pitch, stole a base, scored three runs, and drove in three runs in the game.

Friday night marked the 17th game he’s played in on the season. He picked up his 10th steal on the year and is now 35-for-37 in his career in stolen bases. At the plate he’s currently hitting an absurd .360/.515/.580 and has 10 walks with just 12 strikeouts this year.

The Louisville Trio does it again

After dropped a game on Thursday 18-16, the Louisville Bats got back in the win column on Friday night in Iowa. And they did so with the help of what has to be the hottest hitting trio of teammates in baseball right now.

Matt McLain, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Chuckie Robinson all homered for the Bats on the night. They combined to go 8-14 on the night and it seems like that’s been the story since Encarnacion-Strand joined the Louisville roster less than a week ago.

Matt McLain has had the best month of his professional career and it hasn’t been particularly close. He will enter the weekend hitting .333/.467/.655 with six doubles, seven home runs, and seven stolen bases in 24 games. His strikeout rate is down from where it was last season, his walk rate is up, and his power output is way up.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand is on an absolute tear. Despite missing a month between his time in big league camp and the time he joined the Bats, he’s picking up right where he left off. In the spring we saw the infielder hit .577 with two doubles, a triple, and four home runs in 27 plate appearances. Somehow that led to him being sent to minor league camp…. but that’s another discussion for another day, I guess. In the 26 plate appearances he’s had with Louisville this month he’s hit .500/.538/1.083 with two doubles and four home runs.

And then there’s Chuckie Robinson. He isn’t going to show up on your top prospect lists. At age 28 the days of being on such a list are going to be behind him. But if he keeps doing anything remotely close to what he’s been doing in April, the Reds are going to have to find room for him on the roster. The Bats catcher is hitting .424/.477/.644 with four doubles and three home runs this season. He’s had 65 plate appearances and he’s struck out five times. While it is the minor leagues, a 7.7% strikeout rate is absolutely elite. That he’s doing that while also hitting the cover off of the baseball warrants some real conversations.

Robinson struggled with the big league club in his limited action in 2022. But he’s made some adjustments with his mechanics, too. He’s lowered his hands a little bit in his stance and that and anything else he’s been working on since then has paid off in a big way for the catcher. And with Luke Maile currently rocking a .461 OPS and striking out nearly half of the time he’s stepped to the plate, there should be some discussion soon at Great American Ball Park about making a swap if things don’t improve.

7 Responses

  1. Matt

    Digging Ibarra’s subtle, but mic drop esque, bat flip. He knew he got every single bit of that one.

  2. MBS

    Chuckie is really becoming hard to ignore. I’ve been successfully doing so to this point, but I can no longer do it. CES and McLain were almost expected, especially after their super strong springs, but Robinson, and Hopkins have been pleasant surprises.

  3. MK

    I’m still not a big fan of the team carrying 13 pitchers and three catchers. I believe they could easily and successfully get by with one less of each. Really don’t know what Maile brings to the mix whether it is two or three catchers. But since they insist on 3 and 13 then one should be Robinson and should be whether Chickie is hitting like he’s hitting or not.

    • BK

      Carrying three catchers was done to ensure Stephenson would play nearly every day, which he has. Maile is good with pitchers and defensively, but his main virtue is giving Bell the flexibility to keep Stephenson in the lineup. This approach made sense in the offseason. Last season, Stephenson was the Red’s best hitter, Votto had shoulder surgery, and the Reds had question marks at multiple positions.

      Given that the younger players on the Reds are doing well and that AAA has three players knocking at the door, I could easily see the Reds pivoting away from the three-catcher roster. Once the team has five infielders that warrant daily playing time, Stephenson will have fewer DH opportunities, and the Reds can transition to a more traditional catching rotation.

      • MK

        I know what the say the reason was, but they could do exactly the same thing with two. If the #2 gets injured just move Stephenson to catcher, easy if he is playing first and if the DH they don’t let relief pitchers pitch more than one or two innings anyway, so just pinch hit each time the spot comes up.

  4. MK

    After watching Dragons this afternoon I believe it is official that the selection of Austin z Hendrick in the first round was a wasted pick. Three strike outs a playing a single into three bases did as much or more to lose todays game than anything. From what I’m lead to believe he thinks he walks on water as well. WASTED PICK!!!