Matt McLain is absolutely crushing the baseball in Triple-A Louisville. He might be having the best season in all of minor league baseball right now, and no, that isn’t just limited to the Cincinnati Reds organization.
Last night saw the middle infielder go 3-4 with a walk. His three hits were a single, double, and a home run. His home run was the 12th of the year. Only two professional players have more than that this season – Jo Adell (13) in Triple-A’s Pacific Coast League, and Pete Alonso (13) for the New York Mets. It was McLain’s third straight game with a homer. It was his fifth game out of his last seven with a home run.
Some fun facts to get things going here: Matt McLain wasn’t the only player to homer in Louisville last night. After McLain’s 5th inning home run, Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit a 471-foot home run for back-to-back homers. It was his 8th home of the season in just his 16th game played. That’s a home run every other game. Despite that incredible stat for Encarnacion-Strand, McLain has a higher slugging percentage this season. In Cincinnati the Reds have played Jose Barrero and Kevin Newman at shortstop this year. If you took the OPS of each player and added them together they would have an OPS of 1.181. That’s seven points lower than the 1.188 OPS McLain currently has in Triple-A.
Among players with at least 90 plate appearances in minor league baseball this season, Matt McLain’s 1.188 OPS is the best. He’s played in every game for Louisville and outside of a handful of them, he’s just embarrassed opposing pitchers over and over.
Matt McLain is hitting .349. He’s drawing walks at a high rate and he’s making contact at a good rate, with 24 walks and 32 strikeouts on the season in 157 plate appearances. He’s hitting for big time power, posting a .729 slugging percentage and leading his league in home runs, while also hitting 11 doubles and adding in a triple for fun. McLain hasn’t been great at stealing bases so far this season – he is 9-for-13 after going 27-for-30 last year in Double-A with the Chattanooga Lookouts.
Cincinnati’s got one of the worst offenses in all of baseball. Only Cleveland has a worse OPS+. Only Cleveland and Washington have fewer home runs – The Reds have 28 of them (Tampa Bay leads the league with 76, just to put into perspective how far behind the Reds are). Cincinnati’s 157 runs scored are only ahead of five teams, and as you most certainly know, they play in a high-scoring home ballpark.
So the question that has to be asked, shouted, screamed from the rooftops…. What does Matt McLain have to do in order to get called up? It would be one thing if the shortstop position in the big leagues were looking strong. But it’s actually one of the worst performing positions on any team in baseball right now. It would be one thing if the National League didn’t adopt the designated hitter and there could be far less flexibility available to the team to get more bats into the lineup. If Matt McLain only played and had experience at one position things could be argued that something needs to open up more for him, but between college and professional baseball he’s had time at second base, shortstop, third base, center field, left field, and right field. As a pro it’s been limited to just second and shortstop, but he can play all over. I
t’s time. It’s past time. The National League Central stinks. It’s a division that is winnable, even when a team is sitting at 16-21 with one of the worst offenses in the game if that team makes a move or three to add some bats to a lineup that can hit the ball out of the infield.