It’s been a busy week on the trade front for the Cincinnati Reds, and on Tuesday afternoon they made two more trades that brought in prospects (as well as one cash “swap” for a veteran big league catcher currently in the minors. On the 40-man roster that gives them owned by Austin Romine).
The big trade was that sent Tyler Mahle to the Minnesota Twins for three perspectives. Cincinnati acquired shortstops Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand and left-handed pitcher Steven Hajjar in the deal. After about 45 minutes the Reds sent Brandon Drury to the San Diego Padres featured shortstop Victor Acosta.
Spencer Steer Scouting Report
Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 185 pounds.
Born: in 1997 December 7
Minnesota 2019 drafted Spencer Steer in the 3rd round out of Oregon. After two solid years in 2019 and 2021, Steer broke through in 2022, showing more power and significantly reducing his strikeouts. He started the season in Double-A and hit .307/.385/.591 in 35 games before being promoted to Triple-A. Things slowed down a bit for St. Paul as he hit .242/.345/.485 in 48 games. Much of the decline appears to be due to his BABIP dropping from a reasonable .318 in Double-A to a lowly .248 in Triple-A. There may be a reason he’s low, but without access to the information the team has, it’s hard to tell if it’s a little more bad luck or a little more “not making good contact often enough,” though the fact that he still got a lot of extra bases hits, can somewhat negate the latter.
Where Spencer Steer ends up on the defensive spectrum is a bit higher. He’s played shortstop and can play there if you need him to, but he’s better suited at second or third base. His bat will play well in any position. But especially considering all the other shortstops in the Reds’ organization, it looks like he’ll end up playing somewhere other than shortstop in the near future.
Despite his current Triple-A batting average of .242, he projects to hit for a good average in the future and is also projected to hit for above-average power. It’s easy to imagine a .265 hitter with 20+ home runs in the big leagues.
Baseball America ranked Steer as the Twins’ #4 prospect in the system and the No. 97 prospect in all of minor league baseball at midseason. You can see his career stats here.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand Scouting Report
Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 224 pounds.
Born: in 1999 December 1
After the 2021 hit 33 homers in 81 games as a junior at Yavapai Junior College and then hit 15 more in 56 games at Oklahoma State in 2021. The Twins selected Christian Encarnacion-Strand in the 4th round of last year’s draft. Last season, he hit .391/.424/.598 in 22 games at Low-A Fort Myers, including a 456-foot home run. He started the season with Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League this year 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 continued to smash 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 was 484 feet, just in case you wanted another interesting stat.
Offensively, he’s improved his approach a bit from what he was in college, and while doing so, he’s been able to maintain his edge. Power is definitely the calling card on his scouting report, earning plus-plus raw power grades at times. There’s also a chance he’ll hit for a solid average, though that’s less certain than his power. Defensively, he spent most of his time at third base as a pro, and to say it was poor would be an understatement. He posted an .876 fielding percentage at the position in 67 starts over the past two seasons. He’s had some experience at first base, playing 19 games there since being drafted, so it might be time to make that move permanent.
Baseball America ranked him as the Twins #14 prospect in the midseason update. You can see his career stats here.
Victor Acosta Scouting Report
Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 170 pounds.
Born: in 2004 June 10
Victor Acosta was one of the best in 2021. in the class of international contracts and 2021. received a $1,800,000 bonus from the Padres in January. Last year, as a 17-year-old, he made an impressive debut in the Dominican Summer League, hitting .285/.431/.484 with 26 RBIs, 12 doubles, 5 triples, 5 home runs, 38 walks and 45 strikeouts in 240 plate appearances. He moved up to the Arizona Complex this season and things have slowed down a bit. The Switch has played in 32 games and has 3 doubles, 2 RBIs, 2 home runs and just 5 steals in 12 attempts while hitting .243/.346/.360 in 131 at-bats.
As you would expect from a guy who got 1.8 million less than 18 months ago. $ Bonus, Victor Acosta has a ton of tools and projection in the game. While physical projection may be lacking, the 18-year-old has plenty of room for improvement in the future. He has more speed, a plus arm, above-average power potential — especially from the left side — and his hit tool may be above average as well.
Victor Acosta is very economical to keep out of the big leagues. Basically, he’s just starting his career and he’s still only 18 years old. He’s the same age as the kids who just graduated high school this year, so he’ll likely need a lot of patience. His age and how far he is from the big leagues means there’s a lot of risk, but he’s also the kind of lottery ticket that pays off big if you get the numbers right.
Baseball America ranked him as the Padres’ #11 prospect midway through his season. You can see his career stats here.
Scouting Report by Steven Hajjar
Left handed pitcher
Height: 6′ 5″ | Weight: 215 pounds.
Born: in 2000 August 7
in 2021 Twins 2nd round pick Steven Hajjar was the only pitcher the Reds acquired on Tuesday. Has not appeared as a left tackle since last season’s draft. He started this year for Low-A Fort Myers in the Florida State League (the same league in which the Daytona Tortugas play). He made nine starts before going on the injured list and missing the next six weeks before returning on July 17. Minnesota has limited his pitch count all year and he has yet to throw more than 82 pitches in a game and has only thrown 75 pitches three times in 13 games. He was very good when he was on the mound, posting a 2.47 ERA for Fort Myers with 71 strikeouts in 43.2 innings. Still, Hajjar struck out 22 batters, which is a bit more than you’d like to see from a college pitcher in Low-A.
Fastball: He has worked mostly in the 90-93 range this season, averaging 91.7 MPH and hitting 95.2. There is a lot of movement on the court, and combined with some deception, this allows the court to play above speed.
Slider: The pitch runs in the low to mid 80s and is a solid offering.
Change: His best pitch, when it comes to raw intelligence grades, runs in the 80s and looks like an above-average to plus.
Curveball: An underwhelming offering that he doesn’t throw as often as other secondary pitches.
He has enough stuff to start a career as a starting pitcher if he lives up to all of his projections. If he’s going to be a starter long term, he’ll need to cut back on his walks and may need to adjust a bit more to his fastball, as he’ll hit the 88-91 mph range at times and it’s very hard to get away from that big league today.
Baseball America rated him as the Twins’ 11th-best prospect midway through the season. You can see his career stats here.
Unlike the deal involving Luis Castillo, which I hate but felt the team got a good return on, these two deals are not. Tyler Mahle is a good but not elite starting pitcher. He may have more success outside of the Great American Ball Park, where he has seemed to struggle too often, and perhaps he can become a much stronger version of himself in a park that is a little less home run friendly. The team could still try to re-sign him and keep him around, and maybe they did, and things just didn’t work out. That being said, it looks like the Reds got Mahle’s good prospect back from the Twins.
He was a free agent with Brandon Drury. The Reds probably won’t try to sign him, and Nick Krall even said the other day that they haven’t had those discussions. Signed to a league minimum deal in late spring, turned into one of the top international prospects just one year ago? It’s hard to say it didn’t work out for Cincinnati.