The Cincinnati Reds have selected shortstop Matt McLain out of UCLA with the 17th overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft.

Matt McLain Scouting Report

Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 170

Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Position: Shortstop

Highest Ranking: 10th (Baseball America)

Matt McLain was previously selected 25th overall in 2018 by the Diamondbacks. He’s has been on the radar of scouts for a quite a while. There were some struggles as a freshman, hitting just .203/.276/.355 back in 2019. Since then he’s hit quite well. In the last two seasons he’s hit .349/.431/.589.

McLain impresses scouts with his ability to hit and with his speed. He should be strong on the bases where he could steal double digit bags in the big leagues. The right-handed hitter also projects to hit for a good average in the future. Defensively there’s some split opinions on where it is that he winds up. He may be able to play shortstop in the big leagues, but he’ll likely be below-average there from a defensive standpoint. Most scouts believe he will wind up at second base, but third base could also be an option for him down the line. A few scouts belief that he could even make a move to center if a team wants to try it thanks to his speed. As a freshman he spent some time in the outfield, so that move wouldn’t be something that would be starting from scratch. There is concern about just how much power he can hit for, with most scouts grading his power out as below-average with 12-15 home runs being the projection for him.

Matt McLain Video

Matt McLain College Stats

Matt McLain College Stats

Instant Reaction

If we are working with the information at hand being correct, then Matt McLain is going to need to be a shortstop or a center fielder if he’s going to have more than an average every day big leaguer upside. Slightly below-average power is going to limit that upside at other spots on the field. You can be a sub-20 home run shortstop, catcher, or center fielder. It’s a lot tougher to be a sub-20 home run second baseman in today’s game.

College hitters who don’t walk more than they strikeout as juniors tend to give me a little bit of a pause as first rounders. UCLA is a great baseball school in an outstanding baseball conference – but typically you see first round picks with plenty more walks than strikeouts in their junior season and when they don’t have that it begs a question or two.

With all of that said, it does seem that there are some thoughts out there that the tools may be better than they have played at times while he was in college. A 2-time first round pick, he’s certainly not someone who lacks ability on the field or tools. This pick feels like a safe big leaguer. It might also be one where the upside isn’t potentially as high as some other players that will be going in the first round tonight.

Scouting Director Brad Meador on Matt McLain

“He’s a guy that we really wanted, we really liked, he was really high on the board. We didn’t think we’d be able to get him. But the way it worked out…. Really excited. He’s a player we think can play shortstop, he’s a plus runner, he can handle the bat, hit in the top of the lineup. Middle of the field player with really good tools, really good make up – a lot to be excited about.”

On whether McLain reminded him a bit of Jonathan India and Nick Senzel

“Yeah, we talked about that. I think that’s a good one. We talked about that in the room. He’s a tough kid. He’s played different positions. We think he can play shortstop and we think that’s where he fits best. But he’s a good athlete who’s played second base, who’s played center field, he can move around the field. He gives your team when he gets there, he gives you flexibility, and he can be able to fit into different spots. That’s a good thing. That’s exciting.”

Click here to see the other scouting reports from the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft from the Cincinnati Reds.

45 Responses

  1. kevinz

    Congrats Matt.
    Love the Pick thought be picked earlier.
    Reminds me of India with More speed.
    Went upside last year took a higher risk.
    This year more a high Floor type.
    Less risky.

    • kevinz

      Now McClain could Bust like anyone can.
      But like went for approach over Power.
      Stephenson, Senzel, India.
      All fit in that approach Over Power.

  2. Norwood Nate

    I like the pick. Best available position player. Which I prefer at this stage of the draft.

  3. Sean

    Shortstop who could be moved to center, a Reds tradition a la Billy hamilton and Senzel

  4. RedsKoolAidDrinker

    Maybe I overlooked it but how’s his arm strength?

    • Doug Gray

      Above-average arm that could play at any position on the field.

  5. Brad

    I like that Reds took BPA over positional need. Could have India/Barrero for next 5-6 years at 2B and SS. Mcclain could beat one of them out, play CF, 3B or be traded. I dont recall the Reds ever having the kind of SS depth in system that they now have on paper.

    Im looking forward to picks 30 and 35 knowing they dont need to save any $. Can take BPA including Seniors. A number of top talents are falling. Reds advantage with draft pool.

  6. Greg

    So Doug did the Reds take your advice and pick the best available player in this kid?

    Thanks

    • Doug Gray

      Probably. I don’t know that he would have been my specific pick or not – I didn’t do a draft board this year. But he certainly fits in the right range for being the top pick on a board here, for sure.

  7. Kevin

    Reminds me of Blandino, although looks like he has a better OPS. Wonder if he brings the same relief pitching skills…

  8. Doug Gray

    Just added my own “instant reaction” to the post

  9. Redsvol

    I like the player. Very safe pick. But I do feel we could have gotten him later – or a player similar to him later. I’m also not a fan of Pac-12 baseball. Seems like a lot of the 1st round draft picks from Pac 12 don’t develop. We drafted 2 outfielders high a few years ago from UCL that never got above A ball. Hoping this is different.

    • Reaganspad

      Madrigal was having a great year for the palesox, Larnach is starting in left field for the twins and Adley Rutchman is the #1 prospect in MiLB and will be brought up by the O’s next May. Cayden Grenier is moving through the O’s system as well and is a good as. Those guys won a CWS and run counter to your point. I have seen McLain, he is a guy you want on your team

  10. Scott C

    Not thrilled with the pick, not enough arm to play short or at least what a lot of the analysts say. Not enough power to play 2B or 3B, who knows about center.

    • RedsKoolAidDrinker

      How much power are you supposed to have to play 2B?

      • Doug Gray

        Today? The same amount of power you are supposed to have to play third base – 20-25+ home runs.

      • ClayMC

        Is that really fair though Doug? Of the 35 2B with at least 200 PA’s this year, only half are on pace for 18+ HRs over a 650 PA season. If you’re saying “you need to hit 20-25 HRs to be an above average slugger as a 2B”, sure, I agree, but I’m reading your take as “you need to hit 20-25 HRs to hold a job at 2B” and I just don’t think that’s true. Merrifield, Frazier, LeMahieu, Segura, India are all examples of guys that, while not necessarily at the very top of the WAR boards, are still putting up very solid, very acceptable seasons without launching balls out of stadiums at 20+ clips. These guys are putting up just as much value as several of the high slugging 2B that are struggling to add value elsewhere (McMahon, Hernandez, Moore, Polanco).

        To your point, you said in your piece only that it’s a lot tougher to be a 2B with less than 20 HR power, so I guess we’re really just splitting hairs here. I hope he can make it at SS or CF for the same reasons as everyone else here, because no fan clamors for a guy that projects at below average rates, because you know you’re handicapped from step 1, but we’re also talking about a mid- to late- round pick here, not a top-5 pick. I think 12-15 HRs can certainly still play at 2B, though don’t expect any MVP votes, haha.

      • Doug Gray

        Then you took my comment incorrectly.

        The expectation for a good second baseman is 20-25 home runs. It’s not the only way to be a good one, but you probably need to be elite somewhere else, or very good everywhere else to fall into that “good second baseman” category if you aren’t pushing that 20+ home run line.

    • Doug Gray

      I have not seen one report that has been from this year say that about his arm, which grades out as a 60 these days.

      • Schottzie

        Not that I have a clue what I’m talking about, but one of the ESPN draft guys said on air during the pick analysis FWIW his arm wasn’t good enough basically and they showed some broll of him bouncing some throws. Just grain of salt stuff but could be just what the commenter is referring to.

      • Bubba Woo

        India is on pace to hit 10-12 Home Runs, in one of the most homer friendly parks in MLB, and is a ROY candidate.

      • Doug Gray

        That’s great, Bubba, but he’s on pace for 2.5 WAR. That’s barely above-average. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. Especially for a rookie who should continue to get better for the next few years.

        India’s got elite on-base skills right now. That counteracts the below-average power he’s showing. There are currently 13 second baseman with 10 home runs at the All-Star break according to Fangraphs.

      • MK

        Bubba, you know at the same point in his career people at this site did not believe Jesse Winker had enough power to be a corner outfielder. I believe, like Winker, Jonathan’s power will come and probably McLain too.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree, lack of arm strength analyst spoke about suggests 2B. Not sure he has position flexibility of arm strength is a concern?

  11. Hanawi

    Wonder if Bubba Chandler is intent on playing in college (football and baseball) and that’s why he’s dropping. Otherwise, I could see him being the pick at 30.

  12. SultanofSwaff

    After reading his height and weight I wasn’t prepared to like this pick but based on the video he looks like a high floor solid bet to be a everyday player…. where exactly isn’t certain. Play him everywhere in the minors as positional versatility seems to be a prerequisite nowadays. The swing is short and repeatable, doesn’t appear to be any future issues hitting for average and 15-20HR power. India 2.0?

    If you’re an optimist like me you have to consider that the Reds competitive window is opening. He can move quickly through the minor leagues and be a contributor rather soon.

    • Muddycleats

      Looks like advanced hit tools & follow on reporting noted his speed – maybe double digit SBs which is of course what Reds need more of! Hopefully 4 his quick development & versatility

    • Dan

      I hope you’re right, but India’s junior year at Florida dwarfs McLain’s junior year at UCLA.

      My thought was, he sounds like Blandino 2.0… smallish guy from the Pac-12, versatile middle infielder (but maybe not a SS), gets on base, but with only average-ish speed and average-ish power.

  13. Hanawi

    Looks like they picked Jay Allen at 30. HS outfielder

  14. MK

    Haven’t done real well drafting UCLA players the last few years. Gelalich, Amaral, Weiss, and Ehret just have not panned out.

  15. RobL

    While I don’t think drafting McClain at 17 is bad, I do find it a little out of sorts with previous drafting. The Reds have been all in on power, be it arm or bat. That is why it is puzzling. Are they making a course correction?

  16. Indy Red Man

    I read about the kid and my first thought was Michael Young and then I read the same name somewhere else. 2300 hits and .300 lifetime is a little tough to live up to, but sounds like the kid can rake!

  17. amdg

    Apparently I wasn’t the only person who thought of Blandino, as a Pac 10/12 SS draftee in the mid-late round 1 range.

    Comparing their career #’s in college, Blandino had better numbers than McLain. Better average, better on base, more power, fewer K’s, etc.

    But when you factor in that McLain had an awful freshman year, and only played 13 games as a soph, his #’s are skewed.

    Looking at their soph & junior years, McLain far outpaced Blandino. 349/437/589 vs 291/372/496

  18. AllTheHype

    Lukewarm at best on this pick. Some warning signs, very poor freshman year and k-bb rate not good. If he was an elite defender, that’s one thing, but questions on sticking at ss are yet another issue. Too many questions, seems like he will fail the exam on at least one of them. Unless he has some untapped bat skills, I guess.

  19. Tom

    Top college ss with positive character traits and a 60 hit tool. This guy will have a lot to live up to, but it seems like it’s a good bet.