It’s been a busy week for the Cincinnati Reds on the trade front, and on Tuesday afternoon they closed two more deals that brought prospects (as well as a cash “swap” for experienced big league catcher who is currently in the minors and not 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 short stop Victor Acosta.
Spencer Steer Scouting Report
Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 185 pounds.
Born: Dec 7, 1997
Minnesota selected Spencer Steer in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft from Oregon. After two solid years in 2019 and 2021, Steer broke through in 2022, showing more strength and significantly lowering his strikeout rate. He started the season in Double-A hitting .307/.385/.591 in 35 games before being promoted to Triple-A. Things slowed down in St. Paul when he hit .242/.345/.485 in 48 games. Much of the drop seems to be related to his BABIP going 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 hard to know if it’s a little more unlucky or a little more “not making good contact often enough”, although it the fact that he still has a lot of extra-base hits may negate the latter a bit.
Where Spencer Steer ends up on the defensive spectrum is a bit up in the air. He plays shortstop and he can play there if you need him, but he fits second or third base better. His bat will play fine in both positions. But especially when you consider all the other shortstops in the Reds organization, it looks like he will be playing somewhere in the near future where there is no shortstop.
Despite his current average in Triple-A being .242, he expects to achieve a good average in the future and is also expected to achieve above average power. It’s not hard to imagine a .265 batter with 20+ home runs down the line in the major leagues.
Baseball America had rated Steer as the Twins #4 prospect in the system and 97th overall in all minor league baseball in their mid-season update. You can check out his career stats here.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand Scouting Report
Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 224 pounds.
Born: Dec 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 last season with a .391/.424/0.598 hit in 22 games for Low-A Fort Myers, including a monstrous 456-foot home run. This year, he started the season in Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League, hitting .296/.370/.599 with 23 doubles, 3 triples and 20 homeruns in 74 games. He was promoted to Double-A Wichita a few weeks ago and continued to crush the ball by hitting .333/.400/.685 with 5 more homeruns, 2 more doubles and a triple in 13 games. His first home run in Double-A went 484 feet, in case you wanted another nice stat.
Offensively, he’s shown some improvement in his approach from what it was in college, and he’s been able to maintain his plus strength while doing so. The power is certainly the calling card of his scout report, sometimes earning plus-plus raw power figures. There’s a chance he’ll hit a solid average down the line as well, although that’s less certain than how his strength will play out. Defensively, he’s been on third base most of his time as a pro and to say things went bad would be an understatement. In his 67 starts over the past two seasons, he has racked up a .876 field percentage on the position. He has some experience at first base, having played in 19 games there since he was called up, and it may be time to just make that move permanent.
He was rated by Baseball America as the Twins #14 prospect in the mid-season update. You can check out his career stats here.
Victor Acosta Scouting Report
Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 170 pounds.
Born: June 10, 2004
Victor Acosta was one of the top prospects in the 2021 international signing class, receiving a $1,800,000 bonus from the Padres in January 2021. He made a solid debut in the Dominican Summer League as a 17-year-old last year, hitting .285 . /.431/.484 with 26 steals, 12 doubles, 5 triples, 5 home runs, 38 walks and 45 strikeouts in 240 at bats. This season he moved to the Arizona Complex League and things have slowed down a bit. The switch hitter has appeared in 32 games and has 3 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and only 5 steals in 12 attempts, hitting .243/.346/.360 in 131 at bats.
As you would expect from a guy who got a $1.8 million signing bonus less than 18 months ago, Victor Acosta has a lot of tools and projection in his game. While there may not be much physical projection left, there is a lot of development going on from the 18-year-old. He has a plus speed, a plus arm, above average power potential – especially from the left side, and his hitting tool can also be above average down the line.
Victor Acosta is very farm from reaching the big leagues. He is actually just beginning his career and he is only 18 years old. He’s the same age as the kids who just finished high school this year, so it’ll probably take 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 if you get the numbers right.
He was rated by Baseball America as the Padres #11 prospect in their mid-season update. You can check out his career stats here.
Steven Hajjar Scouting Report
Left Handed Pitcher
Height: 6′ 5″ | Weight: 215 pounds.
Born: August 7, 2000
The Twins 2nd round pick in 2021, Steven Hajjar was the lone pitcher taken over by the Reds on Tuesday. The left-handed start did not pitch after the draft last season. He started this year in Low-A with Fort Myers in the Florida State League (the same league in which the Daytona Tortugas play). He made nine starts before hitting the injured list and missing the next six weeks before returning on July 17. Minnesota has limited his pitches all year and he has not thrown more than 82 pitches in a game, and he has only scored the highest score of 75 pitches three times in his 13 games. He was very good on the mound and registered a 2.47 ERA for Fort Myers with 71 strikeouts in 43.2 innings. However, Hajjar has walked 22 times, which is slightly higher than you would want a college pitcher in Low-A to see.
fast ball: It has mainly worked in the 90-93 range this season, averaging 91.7 MPH and coming in at 95.2. There is a lot of movement with the pitch and combined with some trickery it allows the pitch to play out above the speed.
Slider: The field operates in the low to mid 80’s and is a solid offering.
Change: Its best pitch when it comes to the raw scouting numbers, it operates in the low 80’s and flashes itself as above average to plus.
Curve ball: A fringy sacrifice he doesn’t throw as often as his other secondary pitches, the curveball works in the mid to upper 70s.
He has enough gear to build a career as a starting pitcher if he gets the most out of his projection. If he wants to remain a starter in the long run he will have to do less walks and may need to be a little more consistent with his fast ball speed as it will sometimes dip into the 88-91 MPH range and that’s just really hard to deal with get away at big league-level today.
Baseball America rated him as the Twins’ 11th best prospect in their mid-season update. You can check out his career stats here.
Unlike the deal involving Luis Castillo, which I said I hated but the team got a good return on, these two deals are not like that. Tyler Mahle is a good, but not an elite starting pitcher. He may have more success outside of Great American Ball Park, where he all too often seemed to struggle, and maybe he could become a much stronger version of himself in a park that’s a little less homerun-friendly. The team could still have tried to recapture him and keep him close, and maybe they did and it just wouldn’t work. That said, it feels like the Reds have returned a good run of prospects for Mahle from the Twins.
With Brandon Drury, he was a free agent to be. The Reds probably had no intention of re-signing him, and Nick Krall recently even said they haven’t had those discussions. A late spring signing of a minimal league deal that turned into one of the best international prospects just a year ago? It’s hard to say that didn’t work out well for Cincinnati.