Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Matt McLain hit a home run for the Louisville Bats in their most recent game. Sure, it probably wasn’t worded exactly like that, but something similar has been said more than a few times this season. On Wednesday, McLain picked up his 11th home run of the year for the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. And he did it against one of the top prospects in baseball, too.

 

Gavin Williams was on the mound and after falling behind Matt McLain 1-0 he fired a 100 MPH fastball up in the zone and McLain went up and got it, lining it the other way and into the right field patio deck at Louisville Slugger Field. The home run must have gotten under the skin of Williams because his next three pitches were 100.1, 101.0, and 101.1 MPH – his three fastest pitches of the game.

With the home run, Matt McLain is now hitting .336/.447/.696 on the year. In his 34 games he’s walked 23 times, hit 10 doubles, a triple, 11 home runs, and driven in 34 runs while also stealing nine bases. One continues to wonder when the big league club will make a call to Louisville and bring the infielder up to help an inconsistent, and frankly bad offense (they are 2nd to last in MLB with an 83 OPS+, 3rd to last with just 27 home runs).

Noelvi Marte continues to rake

The season started out slow for Noelvi Marte. The infielder hit just .184/.286/.306 in the first two weeks of the season with the Chattanooga Lookouts. He struck out 15 times in his first 56 plate appearances – that’s a 26.7% strikeout rate for those who aren’t a human calculator.

On April 22nd he would go 2-5 with a walk, double, run, and two runs batted in. He hasn’t really looked back since. Marte has only failed to reach base in one game since that point, and last night extended his streak to eight games as he went 2-4 with a double. It was his 5th multi-hit game out of his last six games.

Since April 22nd he’s gone 22-60 with eight extra-base hits. He’s hit .367/.418/.633 in 67 plate appearances during that stretch, and he’s struck out just eight time. That’s an 11.9% strikeout rate. His turn around has been impressive, and after a slow start his hot hitting of late has pushed his season line to .284/.358/.486. His .844 OPS would the best mark he’s ever had in the US at any stop – only topped by an .883 OPS back in 2019 when he was playing for the Dominican Summer League Mariners.

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37 Responses

  1. Chi Reds Fan

    I have some questions:
    1) Stephenson is starting about 40% of the time at catcher. I was skeptical that the 3 headed catcher approach made sense but the Reds seem committed to it (it is hard enough finding 1 good MLB catcher seems arrogant to believe they could have 3). I get limiting his catching innings to avoid injury but 40% seems awfully low. Is Stephenson such a poor receiver that 40% is the most they want him out there? If so, TS has an OPS of .673, granted lower than his previous years but is TS a good enough hitter to be primarily a DH? Seems we have a quandry and the way the Reds are playing him is neither fish nor fowl.
    2) Barrero- Reds seem to be unable to give him a clear sink or swim opportunity and want to play a vet (again- and w todays lineup JB only getting about 60% of starts at SS). If Reds were a contender I would kinda get it, but they are most definitely not. Perhaps more importantly now, with EDLC, McClain and Marte knocking on the door it seems they need to determine sooner rather than later if Barrero is a legit MLB SS option. Now would seem to be the time to be making the evaluation as PT is only going to get scarcer as McClain then EDLC then Marte get promoted. What am I missing? Do they not risk stranding Barrero (someone else needs to play SS and he is not a good enough hitter to play say CF so they end up dealing him for little return)?
    3) Regardless the vibe on this year’s team seems much better than last year which is welcomed (obviously being in a build up rather than tear down mode helps and perhaps a couple of the vets last year were not plus vibe types but not being there always mere speculation). Just seems Reds could be doing a couple of more things to optimize the build understanding where they are in 2023 v. where they should want to be in what could be a very interesting window 2024 to about 2028.

    • Doug Gray

      My guess is that Votto’s absence, along with Myers missing a week, has added more than a few additional first base starts for Tyler Stephenson that weren’t originally planned for him. But yeah – he’s got to hit better than he has.

      • MK

        If it is going to be a lineup situation, the guy that needs to hit better is Casalli. He has become an automatic out. If the need is offense, then maybe he needs to be replaced by Chuckie who is having a plus offensive season so far.

      • 2020ball

        I see zero reason to destroy the team’s catching depth, and dont see why you’d be prioritizing offense at the catching position. If anything, Casali should be traded to open up a spot for a more useful player on the 26, not another catcher.

    • Dan

      I was thinking, maybe they are Showing off Newman to prepare for a Trade opportunity.

      • Optimist

        It’s not just a thought – it’s a dilemma they brought on themselves, and necessarily so. If they’re not going to spend on long-term FA talent, they have to go the 1-2 year rental showcases and trade for prospects mid-season. To their credit it has worked fairly well, but it does create backlogs of playing time (Newman/Barrero) or backfires with injuries (Myers/Solano).

  2. Jonathan

    McLain>Newman. switch them out please. Split time between Barerro and Mclain and SS and split time between India and McLain at 2nd….What is Bell’s deal with Newman?

    • Mike

      Newman’s living off 2019 in too many baseball minds

    • MK

      New man is being exactly who he is and who they traded for. I can’t fault his play. And I’m not giving India’s at bats to anyone.

    • 2020ball

      His deal is he’s been the better SS so far. I truly dont understand why thats so hard for fans to understand. Its not a high bar, and Barrero isn’t hitting it.

      • Michael

        @2020ball,

        If we are talking about hitting then newman has been worse 575 ops vs 603 ops (and that is a low bar to get over). I cant say anything about defense since I have only watched a few innings this season and highlights.

      • 2020ball

        I’m talking about overall play, and you’re correct I dont see an extra 25 points for a still bad OPS as meaning much.

      • DaveCT

        That’s not the issue, however. Newman is, at best, a stop gap and more likely a veteran utility player who will be able to deal with his role. The clammering for Barrero is a development argument, and the clock is ticking faster every day that out middle infielders keep performing in the minors. The desire to see Barrero play five or more days per week is to assess his value, for the Reds or another in a trade. Splitting with with Newman hinders and possibly defeats that need of the club.

      • 2020ball

        I guess I just disagree with that sentiment, Barrero is getting plenty of playing time and splitting time with a guy who’s arguably outperforming him overall. I don’t give starting spots to anyone if they dont earn it, especially if the only thing you can say is “because they’re young”. That’s counterintuitive to me. I dont see at all why more time means he suddenly turns it around, he’s been given plenty of opportunity, if not more than he’s deserved. I’m not advocating a DFA or a decrease in playing time.

      • Luke J

        I’m not so sure what’s hard for you to understand. There is no way you can say with a straight face Newman has been the better shortstop so far. Barrero has hit better, and is a far superior fielder. Newman looks more solid defensively only because he can only really make the more routine plays. Barrero can make the dazzling plays that very few can. Defensive metrics are still a joke.

      • 2020ball

        I’m not looking at metrics, I’m using my own eyes and I haven’t seen this plus defense that everyone has talked about. The talent is there but he misses too many plays that a guy supposedly that good should make.

        And I’m pretty sure I said arguably, and my point is simply that you can probably compare their play thus far. That’s not good for either player.

  3. DaveCT

    Watching Marte, even with his start he looked like a confident and intelligent hitter. Watching him take off like this, my impression now remains that he’s just a very good, professional hitter. And the power is real, too. Dude hit a monster HR to dead center last week.

    JJ Cooper mentioned the other day that the Reds are waiting to see if McClain will hold up better over a long season before promoting him. I honestly think he might be fishing on that one. I mean, even if he does wear down, he isn’t rewarded for this season?

    Lastly, I never for one second thought McClain could claim the shortstop position. I’ve been all over the ‘leave EDLC alone and let him play short’ train, and I still am. But now, what happens if McClain comes up and just takes the job? It’s a funny game.

    • 2020ball

      I’m not convinced yet McClain’s an everyday SS defensively, but I havent seen him play so I cant claim anything.

      I’m also high on Marte, to me he looks like a solid regular with fringe all-star potential. AAA call-up is imminent.

      • DaveCT

        My thing is, McClain has yet to play himself off the position. While I was admittedly not expecting his play at short to be too much, especially in comparison to Barrero, Arroyo and EDLC and particularly his arm, I cannot say after seeing several games that he isn’t in the mix, at least as a place setter for Elly.

      • 2020ball

        Okay, thanks for the assessment since I haven’t watched him yet. Its not a stretch to think he is their best current option there. My hesitancy toward calling him up is his role is already being filled on the team by Senzel, Steer, India, and the two SSs. I’d also prefer not to call him up if he’s just going to be a placeholder. Good problems to have, etc.

  4. Laredo Slider

    The Reds indicate to me they’re ready to dump Barrero, at least that’s the impression they’ve given the last week-10 days. This play a game sit 2, play 2 sit one isn’t conducive to building one’s confidence or batting eye. Yes, Barrero’s struggled but he’s also showing some modest improvement too. Seems to be setting him up to fail with this erratic lineup routine.

    • 2020ball

      There are countless examples of guys who had inconsistent playing time and eventually earned the starting job regardless. It’s not how often he’s playing, its what he’s done with those opportunities.

    • DaveCT

      Laredo, there does, indeed, appear to be indecision regarding Barrero and Newman, and it doesn’t help this club in a non-winning year. I agree, Barrero has shown improvement. I concur Newman is not any part of the future of the club. So why the indecision? If the reason does not have to do with player development, what does it have to do with? is it about creating culture? If Bell cannot communicate this, then it’s Krall’s job. Now, I’ve come to truly appreciate Krall, but, in the spirit of RML and RLN, his communication generally seems late to the party and less than clear. This is an eager fan base, Nick. Please indulge us with updates.

    • Optimist

      I don’t know the answer to this, but I wonder about the extent to which Barrero and Stephenson are lagging due to recovery from their respective injuries? I think we’re just beginning to see the positive effects from Senzel, and apparently Winker has simply cratered for the time being from several issues. I’m aware of the discussions all the way back to Bench’s lung surgery.

      • DaveCT

        I’d bet a bag of Cheetos that Stephenson’s lack of power is related to his injury. Man, those shoulder injuries just take forever to heal and are well known to sap power. Hand and wrist injuries can do the same but I’d say Barrero’s timeframe has most likely been effected by the lack of at bats. Every guy is different, and Jose is not a musclebound kid, so perhaps he’s been slow to get to his in game power for this, too. Man, I just want to see him play every day.

  5. Redsvol

    Good Article Doug, as usual. The interesting thing to me in the HR video was that it wasn’t like the pitcher missed his spot by a ton – it was still away, just up higher than catcher wanted. 100 mph up and away is a tough pitch to not foul off. McLain is more of a professional hitter than I realized.

    My concern, was and continues to be his range at shortstop. I feel he needs to play second base or center field. I know, it didn’t work out well shifting Senzel from infield to center but lots of players do it in order to get playing time.

    Its a mistake to let Rookies and 3rd year players (looking at you, India) dictate where they play. Until they are superstars, they play where the team needs them. Give Johnathan India a nice contract extension and I’m sure he would be willing to play left field. EDLC at 3rd, Barerro, McClain and CES would make 1 super fun infield to watch grow.

    • DaveCT

      I mentioned above that McClain has yet to play himself off of short. But I also haven’t seen him go get balls in the hole or over the 2nd base bag. He does seem to have enough arm. Either way, his best position is likely 2B and he’d be a strong asset there with his bat.

  6. Zach

    Trade Barerro and get a younger prospect to bolster low-A ball. Just my 2 cents. Seems fair to me.

    • Jim t

      What do you think you’ll get for Barrera? Many on here seem to think it’s lack of opportunity that is holding him back. Folks his issue is pich recognition. He swings at more bad pitches than anyone on the team. He gets himself out consistently.

      • Luke J

        I’d argue pitch recognition is not much of an issue this season. Last season he simply couldn’t lay off the low and away slider. This season that hasn’t really been an issue.

      • Jim t

        LukeJ I watch most every game and he still chases balls off the plate.

  7. Hoyce

    Would love to see chappy back in reds uni. He’s available, makes only $2.5 this yr I believe. Couldn’t be too pricy to trade for. And reds need more relievers and lefties. Make it happen!!

  8. Chi Reds Fan

    Folks have mentioned a trade, which does seem relevant. In my mind Reds should focus intently on the ’24 to ’28 window. They will have hitters at nearly all positions but appear short at least one starter even assuming good health of the current Big 3. The minors have Abbott, who remains unproven above AA, and after that hopes and dreams in the form of Williamson and Phillips, then later perhaps Petty and Richardson who would seemingly be at least a year if not two from being ready. Ultimately between Steer/Senzel/Barrerro/India/EDLC/McClain/CES/Friedl/Marte (not to mention Hopkins, Fraley) someone is going to not have a place. Trading one of them for a starter would make sense. As someone said Newman is what he is, getting him 50 more ABs now is not going to make him prime trade bait. The younger guys like Barrero on the other hand need to get the op to show how they could fit into an MLB lineup in a way that would make them worth a legit MLB starter (and given the plethora around the league of injuries those are not going to get any easier to find). Heck, if a GM came to me offering a legit MLB starter controllable into the ’27 or ’28 season for McClain I would strike while the McIron is hot.

  9. DaveCT

    Yikes, CES. 471 foot HR, right after McClain’s 12th, no meager shot in itself.

  10. RedsGettingBetter

    I think the Reds have not called McLain because to decide if DFA Newman or not it’s very hard to them and maybe they guess McLain couldn’t translate his torrid offense at AAA to the majors. Bell said it, Newman is a “very important” piece of the team since he is a good contributor…Well…