Trade Central: Reds Trade Tyler Mahle To Twins For A Trio of Prospects
In a deadline day deal the Twins continued to add to their pitching corps as they acquired righthanded starter Tyler Mahle from the Reds. In return the Reds will receive infielders Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand as well as lefthanded starter Steven Hajjar, the Twins fourth, 11th and 14th prospects.
The AL Central-leading Twins are looking to stave off the Guardians and White Sox, sitting one game and three games back, respectively. The Twins added a quality starter to the rotation to solidify the No. 3 starter role behind Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray. The Reds added a pair of productive positional players in the upper minors with the ability to hit the ball in the air to their pull-side, a tremendous asset in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark.
Tyler Mahle, RHP
Mahle has been a consistently reliable option for the Reds over the last three seasons, making 61 starts between 2020-2022 and compiling a 20-15 record with a 3.93 ERA and a .225 opponent batting average, while striking out 27.4% of batters he faced. The righthander mixes four pitches but works primarily off of a four-seam fastball sitting 93-94 mph and a mid-80s splitter. He mixes in a cutter as a third pitch and a slider he throws almost exclusively to righthanded hitters.
Mahle’s at times inconsistent results look to have been heavily impacted by the unforgiving confines of Great American Ballpark, where Mahle owns a career 5.02 ERA and an astronomical 1.92 home runs per nine innings rate over 285.1 innings. Away from Great American Mahle has been a different pitcher, with a career ERA of 3.74 and just 0.82 home runs per nine innings allowed. How playing his home games in a more hitter neutral park will impact his numbers remains to be seen. Mahle has one more year of arbitration remaining before he hits free agency after 2023.
American League Central Prospect Notebook For July
Organization reports from our five American League Central correspondents, headlined by a Tigers righthander who has learned to become more efficient following a trade.
Spencer Steer, 2B
Drafted in the third round in 2019 out of Oregon, Steer has been one of the best performers in the Twins system over the last two seasons, hitting .261/.354/.504 with 44 home runs and an 11.5% walk rate over 193 games since the beginning of 2021. Steer had a breakout 2021 and has only built on it in 2022, hitting .269/.361/.528 with 20 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A. He falls into the exclusive group of prospects with a high contract rate, low chase rate and above-average power metrics, portending a well-rounded offensive skill set at peak. Steer provides the Reds with a righthanded hitter close to the majors who is adept at pulling the ball in the air. Steer is 40-man-eligible this offseason and could join the Reds' active roster before the end of the season.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B
A 2021 fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State, Encarnacion-Strand has been one of the best performers in the minor leagues this season, hitting .302/.374/.612 with 25 home runs over 87 games primarily in High-A. He’s an aggressive hitter that rarely takes pitches. Encarnacion-Stand does most of his damage against breaking stuff and offspeed pitches as he’s struggled to catch up to elevated velocity and well-placed fastballs. He’s been extremely productive up to this point, but Encarnacion-Strand’s approach will have to improve in order to maintain this level of production against upper-level pitching.
Steven Hajjar, LHP
Early on in the 2021 draft cycle Hajjar was viewed as a potential first-rounder coming out of Michigan. His inability to add power to his fastball despite prototypical size and strength caused him to slip to the second round of the 2021 draft. He was shutdown following the draft. In 12 starts this spring with Dunedin Hajjar has shown the ability to miss bats and limit damage despite questionable command. The lefthander mixes a low-90s four-seamer, low-80s slider, high-70s curveball and a changeup. His four-seam fastball generates whiffs at a high rate despite lacking even average velocity. He instead gets whiffs with deception and movement as he gets over 19 inches of induced vertical break on average, well above the major league average. His slider is his primary secondary weapon sitting low-to-mid 80s with tight shape. His changeup at 82-83 mph has been a plus swing-and-miss pitch for Hajjar but his command of it has lagged behind his slider and fastball. Hajjar’s curveball is a fourth offering he’s struggled to land, but gives him another secondary to play off of the vertical movement of his fastball. Hajjar has back-end starter traits but has to tighten his execution to be considered a true rotation option one day.