What to Expect from Reds Shortstop Matt McLain
The reinforcements are coming to Cincy,
The Reds’ rebuild has been a lengthy one, but the fruits of the front office’s labor have begun to ripen. Shortstop Matt McLain will reportedly be called up to Cincinnati this week, and he should be one of several impact hitting prospects to be recalled this season. So, who exactly is Matt McLain? Let’s take a closer look the 23-year-old infielder,
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A Look at McLain
Reds infield prospect Matt McLain joined rarified air when the former UCLA star was selected 17th overall by Cincinnati in 2021. The 2021 Draft marked the second time in McLain’s baseball career in which he was selected in the first round of the MLB Draft. Three years earlier, the Diamondbacks selected McLain with the 25th pick out of high school, but he chose to honor his college commitment. For those interested, Arizona selected LHP Blake Walston in the 2019 MLB Draft with the pick that the D-Backs received as compensation.
McLain struggled in his freshman season in UCLA, and then saw his sophomore campaign get cut short due to the COVID shutdowns in 2020. As a junior in 2021, McLain looked much more like the player Arizona selected in 2018, when he hit .333/.434/.579 with nine home runs and 25 extra base hits in 49 games.
The 23-year-old hit just .232 in his first full season in the Minors last year with Chattanooga (AA), but did hit 17 home runs and swiped 27 bags in an uneven campaign. McLain caught fire in Louisville (AAA) this season, though, as he hit .346 over the first month of the season and belted 12 home runs across 37 games.
A versatile infielder that can play second, third, or short, McLain possesses above-average pop and speed, to along with fine bat-to-ball skills. McLain’s swing is a thing of beauty, as he’s able to effortlessly uppercut to drive the ball into the air with authority. But, he can also poke balls the other way and should profile as — at the very least — an average contact hitter in the Majors.
A Look at the Reds and Fantasy Outlook
The Reds have received a fair amount of production from 2021 NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India at second this season, but the same can’t be said for shortstops Jose Barrero and Kevin Newman. With little to prove in Louisville, McLain will now get his chance to stick at the MLB level.
McLain may very well be the shortstop in Cincinnati for now, but it might not be a long stint given what Elly De La Cruz has done in the Minors. He too has destroyed AAA pitching of late, and he just might be headed to southern Ohio to join McLain with the Reds.
Lastly, let’s take a look at McLain’s fantasy potential. It’s going to be interesting how the Reds deploy McLain in its lineup. While the does have a good combo of power and speed, the top of the Reds lineup has been productive as of late. Aside from India, Nick Senzel‘s caught fire of late, as has Jake Fraley.
McLain might start out in the bottom half of the Reds lineup, which could limit his ability to drive in runs. But, his raw tools does make him a curious target in NL-only leagues or for players in need of middle infield help.