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.

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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67 Responses

  1. LarkinPhillips

    AGREE! There are zero excuses at this point. I bet Krall and others are kicking themselves for not having him on the Opening Day roster as these kinds of numbers would translate to ROY chance and draft picks for the Reds.

    • BK

      The Reds would not have received draft compensation as McLain was not on his requisite top 100 prospect lists entering the season.

      • LarkinPhillips

        Sorry. I didn’t realize that was a qualification as well. Thanks BK.

      • Optimist

        It’s a curious requirement – if anything, that should entail double compensation. Wonder if MLBPA messed up there?

      • 2020ball

        100% a mistake. nice idea sure but sloppily executed

    • Mike in Ottawa

      .232 in AA last year. Is the reason he has not gotten the call. Barrero (who everyone is ready to give up on) is a prime example that a big year in the minors doesn’t always guarantee MLB success.

  2. Jay (mortchristenson)

    I guess the answer I would give is only the Reds know what they have him still working on. But maybe they want to see how things go as pitchers in the league see him a second time and how they adjust. And how be adjusts back.

    As you have said, it’s not financial and not service time. So it must be something that is substantive. That as fans we might not agree with because we are fans and emotional.

  3. Doc

    Which is the real McClain? The one whose 2022 performance in AA was at a lower level and over the entire year, and was somewhat pedestrian, or the one whose performance over 5-6 weeks in AAA is superb? Barrero had a superb performance across an entire year in AAA, but his MLB work has been less so. It’s just not a straight-forward 1:1 comparison between AAA and MLB and a rebuild is a several year project, not a 6 week project.

    • Bdh

      McLain has always been very good though. If he doesn’t miss close to a month last year he would have easily mbeen a 20/30 player in AA for his first full season in the minors. He OPS’d over .800

    • Doug Gray

      The rebuild never ends if you don’t ever call anyone up.

    • LDS

      McLain has 129 AB in AAA. Ass @Doc noted, Barrero did it for a whole season. He left out the impact of Barrero’s injury and Bell’s lineup and position shuffles. Regardless, leave McLain in Louisville and playing every day. Because he won’t play every day in Cincinnati and he won’t play the same position, whether 2nd, SS, or whatever. It’s not how Bell does it. That should be evident by now.

      • Doug Gray

        McLain doesn’t play the same position in Louisville….

      • Stock

        Barrero did it over 45 games not a full season. And his 45 games did not compare to that of what McLain has accomplished thus far.

      • LDS

        @Stock that’s true. Aquino’s 2019 AAA performance prior his August call up is another example. McLain hit .232 last year in AA. This year, absolutely he’s killing it, but it doesn’t mean necessarily that he’s ready to make the jump. Maybe he is. Unless the Reds change the Newman strategy, McLain won’t be playing every day and any more than Barrero has. And if he doesn’t hit like Lindor over the first month, RLN fans will be calling for him to be sent down or traded and EDLC to be called up. We’re a fickle bunch here. No patience whatsoever.

      • Stock

        I would not compare McLain to Aquino. It is a comp I don’t understand at all.

        Aquino’s K%-BB% in 2019 was 18%. McLain’s is 5.1% and over the last month it is 0.9%.

        In 2019 Aquino was 25. McLain is 23.

        My opinion is Aquino is a terrible comp.

    • Stock

      Barrero had a superb performance across an entire year in AAA, but his MLB work has been less so.

      I assume you are referring to Barrero’s 2021 season in which he played all of 45 games in AAA. Not quite a full season.

      You can’t base promotions off of one player. Using your logic it will never be time to call him up.

      Additionally Barrero was good for Louisville in 2021. But not nearly as good as McLain has been this year.

    • B

      But Barrero was 89 K-11 BB. McLain is 32 K -24 BB. That is a HUGE indicator in long term success in the majors. McLain is just way safer. Keep in mind McLain went 17th overall, but was a much higher rated prospect and if that class didnt have Mayer and Lawlar there was probably a chance he went way higher too.

  4. Michael E

    Super-two is why. They wont say it, but holding these guys back for another 15-20 games to try and get past a super-two designation for that arbitration/pay advantage later. I get it, but I don’t. I can see both sides and lets be honest, all of those playing well have not been in AAA long. McClain could/should be an exception, but even then, we know Castellini and his lot of fellow owners are penny-pinchers. Maybe, and its a stretch, maybe avoiding super-two and extra/higher Arb payouts means the difference between extending a De La Cruz or Abbott or McClain or CES and not extending one of them. Like I said, a stretch as we’re talking a couple of million extra in Arb payouts versus 10s of millions in a 5/6 year extension buying out a season or two of FA.

    I would like to see McClain, EDLC, CES and Abbott all up by this time next month.

    I DO NOT want to see them called up if Manager Bell is gonna have them rotting on the benches 3 or 4 games a week. If I call these guys up and Bell sits them I fire Bell mid-season and find someone comfortable starting rookies and 2nd year players CONSISTENTLY (at least 75% of games if not 80%+)

    • Michael E

      I hope that Bell is NOT the manager next year. He’s not a boogie man, but he’s not an adept manager and lineup maker either. I also hope our vet additions/subtractions are for just low payed emergency fill-ins and that it aligns with our new managers ideas so they see less than 250 ABs over the season as utility spot-starters to rest some of the younger players, especially during the dog days of July, August and September when standing out on a 110 degree field for 1 hour cumulative every day can be physically draining. Get them some shade once a week, off day or rest day.

      • Laura

        Bell reminds me of J. Narron. Both were back-up players and Narron was criticized for playing those type players too often. The “Two angry guys” (I miss them) opined that he did that because Narron was a back-up player himself and felt for them. I wonder if that’s why Bell does it?

    • Michael E

      Wow, just re-read last post, now THAT was a run-on. My 7th grade grammar teacher would be impressed…but her red-ink ballpoint pen would be hot from all the friction.

    • Optimist

      Doug and many others have noted that the Reds have basically dropped the service time games, so the Super-2 status is even less likely. The substantive reasons are the small sample size and how does game management get them in the lineup. McLain is practically past the sample size issue, even considering last season in AA when his secondary numbers were very strong – he’s shown all the adjustments he can make in MiLB. As for the rest, yes, they may require more time in AAA – but in the sense of weeks, not months.

      Still believe they all should be in MLB no later than Aug. 2nd, after the deadline, and if Marie continues to perform, he gets one of the 2 roster spots in September.

      That sets up 2024 nicely.

    • Laura

      When will the players be past “Super-two” – do you know?

      • Doug Gray

        No one knows because it’s not a date that is known until after the season.

      • RedBB

        Safe to say that June 15th will be past that day whatever it is though

  5. Laredo Slider

    Call him up, put him at SS or 2B and LEAVE HIM ALONE! Put him in the lineup and don’t jerk him around like they’re doing Barrero. You can bet whatever they do it’ll be wrong, Reds have the most incompetent FO in MLB.

    • Michael E

      Agreed, but I have no confidence that Bell would do so. He needs to be gone and they need a manager more than comfortable playing young guys with high potential over older guys with no potential but a decent floor. I think Bell is like many managers, and likes the comfort of a vet that might not make that error or might not strike out on three swinging strikes on balls in the dirt. Fine for the Yankees, but not for a penny-pinching Reds team in a rebuild.

  6. Ghm08

    I am glad to hear the optimism from Doug! We have been hearing all year this is a rebuild year, but screw that. Our division is weak. Trade Senzel/Barrero/Steer for a possible 2/3 pitcher with a few years of control and go for it. Bring Elly, McClain, CES and Abbot up. Miraculously, our bullpen has been tight this year! Which means the stars have aligned and God is sending the Reds a sign to go for it.

    We have nothing to lose, we are already in the mindset that this is a rebuild year. Seize the moment. If we don’t make the payoffs this year it will definitely help out the young kids get ready for next year. Nothing to lose by bringing them up and everything to gain. The kids are ripe for harvest.

    • john

      You want me to be brutally honest?! I kinda agree…

      The problem is we have to be patient the next 2-3 months when the trade deadline hits, I want Newman, Myers off my team, Trade senzel with his value being up and having only 2 years of control.

      Barrero is tricky, talented, but clearly not hitting even close to average.
      India nd our SS have NO DEFENSE.

      Maybe trade India, play Mclain at 2B, Elly SS, Steer at 3B. Steer did great at 3B IMO.

      India could net us a nice haul, maybe improve our SP depth and some prospects.

      If our current team can leave us somewhat close in July then we should be in good shape for the rest of the year.

      THE PROBLEM IS WHEN CAN YOU BRING UP MCLAIN.
      NOW!

      If I was ever a coach I would play my players who play the best. Simple coaching.

    • TR1

      I don’t think any team is giving up a 2/3 pitcher with years of control left for any of those 3 nor all 3. I think you’d be looking at giving one of those 3 along with one of McLain/Marte/Arroyo plus one of our top 3 pitchers. And that might be lite.

      If they have soured on Barrero at all, then maybe a change of scenery would help him. Jo Adell would be a nice trade for us if you could flip Barrero plus another prospect for him. Feel Adell same kind of prospect for Angels fans who they wait to break out on MLB level but doesn’t. We don’t have the logjam in outfield that they do.

      • ksdavis

        Angels are not going to trade for Jose B – unless to play him at another position. They just brought their first round draft choice from last year to play shortstop. They don’t need Jose.

      • Bdh

        Our top 3 pitchers all profile as #3 pitchers or better and they have 5-7 years of team control left depending on which one you’re talking about.

        Why would it cost one of them + a top prospect + one of the 3 controllable MLB hitters mentioned above for a pitcher in the same tier with less than half the club control?

        How does that seem reasonable to you?

      • TR1

        When I say top 3 pitchers I meant in minors. You aren’t trading Greene, Lodolo, or Ashcraft. And Abbott untouchable too. I’m just saying the price for a 2/3 starter with years left of control is going to be astronomical.

        Angels obviously are going could use Neto at SS most of the games. However, they coudl use a CF to spell Trout after this year. And 2b looks bad with Drury there, so maybe Barrero a super utility type eventually.

        I think you sit tight and move the veteran players and wait til next year. May have to move some prospects in off season as I don’t like the pitching FA class that’s going to be there at end of year.

      • Bdh

        That’s still way too steep a price.

        It’s more than the reds gave up when they made a similar trade as suggested for Latos and I personally think that was too much then.

        Only difference is that was a team already at the top. This is a team who if patient should get to that point unless they go 2019 reds and trade away their future for marginal short term success

        Do the rebuild right!

    • Bdh

      Thank God fans don’t make roster decisions. Trading 3 cheap controllable players including 2 of the 5-6 best bats on an already struggling offense to bring up rookies is not what’s going to push a team over the top. You’d actually set the team back a little bit in the long run by doing this type of move

      Steer, a rookie himself who has positional versatility + currently leads the MLB club in HRs, showing up on trades to improve the team right now blows my mind.

      All kinds of money available to sign that mid rotation starter in the offseason without giving up our pre arb current 3 hole hitter and Senzel who’s looked the best he has since his rookie season

      They need to approach this season like last years orioles did. They brought up their star rookie, played close to the wildcard all year long but still traded expiring contracts like Mancini away at the deadline rather than trading for players for the 2nd half of that season. No sense in ridding yourself of any future assets when your real window is about to open for potentially a good long time.

      The following 4 are likely all gone at the deadline imo

      Farmer
      One of the reserve catchers
      Newman
      Myers

      The only other player on an expiring contract is weaver and I think they’ll keep him with such a young rotation around him. Wouldn’t be the worst thing to try and keep him in Cincinnati after this year for a long man in the pen/emergency starter

      • Ghm08

        I like steer, I really do. I’ve lost patience with Senzel and Barrera..but they could still be borderline all stars one day. There is no way you can convince me that Steer, Barrero, and Senzel are as good as Elly, McLain and CES. They are blocked. Personally I think three controllable starters for a 2/3 pitcher with a few years of control is fair trade for the right team. We currently have 3 number 3 pitcher that can all develop into a 1 or 2. Add in abbot and that’s very solid rotation. If we get another 2 or 3 starter it could be one of the best rotations in baseball. Add an infield with Stephenson, CES, India, McClain, and Elly with our decent BP and the reds have a solid team now. Doug was right. We are not out of it. We can win now if are guys from AAA are brought up. The pieces are falling in place, just quicker than we imagined. It’s not like we don’t have a pipeline of SS’s coming up the system. We have an inside straight deal, put the chips in and go all in. We don’t have many opportunities and our division is weak right now.

    • AC

      I like the sentiment, but who’s giving up a 2/3 pitcher for Senzel/Barrero/Steer?

      • Bdh

        5 1/2 years of steer
        2 1/2 years of Senzel
        4 1/2? Years of Barrero

        A team like the brewers wouldn’t trade a high end #2 like Woodruff especially if they’re contending but im sure some fringe team or worse would trade their #3 for that package. The reds would be dumb to trade Steer right now though

  7. Big Bill

    Bring up McClain to play SS in the short term and eventually decide who is best of EDLC, India and MClain to play SS, 2B and LF. India is a long term player for the Reds but his range at 2nd is pretty below average so might be best to move him to LF. Then bring up CES for 1b. Can play that along with Steer as well as spell Senzel at 3B. You have Marte about a year out for 3B so competition for playing time will be high. (Marte may also be a better fit in outfield eventually get Stephenson back in more games at C as his bat is good for a C but not enough to be regular DH or 1B. Cf is Friedl until someone takes it away. RF I would platoon Fraley and TJ Hopkins until I discovered who my takes the position. Would also be a big area to look for a player in Free Agency next year. You have multiple hitting talent to run through DH in Steer, CES, Fraley, Stephenson, Senzel or Hopkins.

    As far as pitching: Greene, Ashcraft, Lodolo,Weaver. Promote Abbott and see what you have. (you have Williamson, Petty, Richardson and Phillips developing in minors.

    BullPen: Diaz as closer, Sims, Farmer, Gibaut, Law and Young. Santillian comes off IR at the end of the month and you possibly get back Antone in next few months. Maybe should look for a dynamic set up guy to pair woth Sims and bullpen is looking strong.

    Bringing up these kids and letting them get acclimated in the majors in 2023 sets you up to be a top contender in 2024. Maybe even with ahot streak sneak in to playoffs. Look to add a possible RF and one or two strong relievers and you look good for a few years.

    • Bdh

      Santillan. When healthy he’s a legit high end reliever. The later part of his 2022 season looks rough but he was pitching through back pain.

      Can’t wait to see how he and Antone look later this year. A bullpen with the following 8 could be the best they’ve had in over a decade and if they can get Sims to extend past next season which is all he’s signed for they could have this same bullpen for 3 years before anyone would be gone

      Before any free agent signings and under the assumption that Abbott and Phillips get the 4/5 rotation spots

      Diaz 4 1/2 years left
      Sims 1 1/2 years left (please extend)
      Antone 2 1/2 years left
      Santillan 4 1/2 years left
      Young 3 1/2 years left
      Law 2 1/2 years left
      Gibaut 4 1/2 years left
      Legumina 6+ years left

      (Farmer traded at this deadline)

      Also have the following under control
      Sanmartin 4 1/2 years left
      Cruz 5 1/2 years left

      Some legit minor league relievers at AA or above

      Wong
      Nutof
      Garcia
      Salazar

      And any converted starters such as

      Boyle
      Stoudt
      Williamson
      Richardson

      • BK

        I’m somewhat concerned about Santillan’s physical condition. Based on his height/weight listed in his bio, his BMI is over 35, which may explain the back and lower extremity issues he’s been experiencing. If those numbers are accurate, achieving and sustaining performance at the elite level required in MLB will be difficult.

  8. Jpser05

    I was watching the Mets’ broadcast last night and they discussed 2 of their prospects that are tearing it up at AAA. They seemed frustrated that the front office was not bringing them up to help their struggling club. The prospects were:

    Mauricio – 340-373-590
    Vientos – 329-429-685

    So the Reds are not the only team keeping their hot hitting prospects down in the minors. For some reason, this brought me some comfort.

  9. Laredo Slider

    My thing is ex-college players should be on a faster track than younger non-college players unless the younger player is a freak, read EDLC.. They’re older, have played pretty good competition and don’t need as much minor league play. CES, Abbott, McClain need to be in Cincy ASAP.

    See some are still slurping Senzel and while he did look like a finally had a pulse, he’s creeping back to familiar territory. He’s lost like 60 points off his BA in the last week-10 days or so, back to the .260s or so with limited power and is still the worst base runner I’ve ever seen at the ML level. Trade him before he gets hurt again.

    • Laura

      I think McClain played around 120 games in college (4 years). That should count for something.

  10. Stock

    I agree it is time to bring up McLain. I posted so earlier this week. I put up a longer post on Redlegnation.com earlier today stating it was time for McLain.

    I would not be surprised if McLain replaces Friedl, MRI pending.

  11. AllTheHype

    McLain should be up and at SS every day, Barrero to CF most days, Newman to bench. Pretty easy.

  12. Laura

    They should let Myers go. In 27 games, he’s struck out 38 times and he actually hurts the Reds lineup as he is an automatic out. A ground ball at least might move the runner over or let someone score, a fly ball to the outfield might do the same thing. But a strike out just kills momentum or even a rally.
    If Bell insists on playing him, bat him 9th to do the least amount of damage. If someone is already on base, have Myers move the runner over for the top of the lineup to drive that player in.
    While he was on the 10 day DL, the Reds played .500 baseball. We don’t need him.

    • Doug Gray

      Wil Myers has been an above-average hitter for the last 10 years. One bad month should in no way mean to release him.

      • Laura

        No, out of 10 seasons, he had 5 decent years but had a lifetime BA of .253 with 156 HRs, 521 RBIs and 1121 Strikeouts when the Reds signed him. So, divide those stats over 10 seasons and it comes out to .253 BA, 16 Hrs, 52 RBIs and 120 SOs every year. That’s not an above-average hitter.

      • Doug Gray

        Yes. Wil Myers has had an OPS+ over 100 in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2022. In 2019 he was at 96, every so slightly below-average. In 2014 he was bad, with a 77 OPS+. He’s an above-average hitter. And he has been for his career outside of 2014, and four weeks of games in 2023.

      • Laura

        Still can’t agree he’s a good hitter. He strikes out too much – he’s had seasons of 180, 168, 160 & 141 strikeouts. Plus 2 more seasons of 90 or more strikeouts.
        That probably explains why his RBI (521) and Runs Scored (522) totals are low for a player who has played 10 seasons. A good hitter is either the guy who score the runs, moves the runners up or the guy who drive in the runs.
        As of today, his lifetime strikeout rate is 30% and he’s not driving in many runs, moving runners over or scoring runs. Which is why I suggested he hit 9th and move runners over for the top of the line-up to drive in those runners.
        We’re gonna have to agree to disagree on him being a good hitter.

      • Doug Gray

        I don’t know what to tell you if you think a player who is better than the league average in OPS isn’t a good hitter. That’s on you.

    • Optimist

      Doug’s correct here – they will never release him, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that Myers is this season’s good hitting veteran to be traded to a contender at the deadline for longer term prospects/pitching. The Reds have done quite well with this approach lately, and Myers may yet turn it around, but it will become an issue to the extent he takes up space after the deadline if he goes untraded.

      • Laura

        I agree the Reds will not release him, they are hoping to trade him later in the year for prospects or pitchers like you said. That has worked in the past, but those players performed well before they were traded. The season is 6 weeks old now and Myers continues to hover just above the Mendoza line, and he’ll continue to be the strike-out king in the line-up and make it even harder for the Reds to win some games.

    • 2020ball

      Who are you playing in the OF instead?? Our depth there is awful, Ramos is getting regular playing time.

      • Laura

        Instead of Myers – Fraley, Fairchild or Saini (good defense, fast and can play all OF positions).

  13. Zach

    Agree on McClain. He needs promoted to learn how to play at the MLB level. CES and EDLC after the All Star break.

    Abbott will be promoted before year end. Williamson the same if he can turn things around. The Reds will have TONS of cash for FA next year. That’s where they should go for broke.

  14. DaveCT

    BA covered this a week or so ago (link below). JJ Cooper was suggesting the Reds were waiting on McClain to show he could stand up to the demands of a long season, given the impression he wore down last year.

    This seems pretty daft at this point (The Reds, not JJ, who knows the Reds as well as anybody not named Doug). What’s the premise here, Reds? That you’d prefer McClain wear down at AAA instead of the ML’s?

    If the club is concerned this may just be lightning in a bottle, well, this isn’t a ten game hot streak at this point. Also, in comparison to 2022, McClain’s K rate is way down, supporting the observation that he wasn’t ‘selling out for power’ last year so much as practicing in game how to get to his power. That’s called aptitude, baseball IQ. I could go on …

    Whoever above said only bring him up to play — not to sit as with Barrero a few seasons back — has my vote. If he comes up, he plays, like India two seasons ago.

    https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/potential-candidates-close-to-joining-the-top-100-prospects-list/

    • BZ

      People forget that Bell had benched India too so he wasn’t some outlier where Bell bought in all of the way. If I remember correctly, India struggled early and had been sitting for a week or two. It took Moose getting hurt to put him back in the lineup and eventually win the ROY.

  15. Oregon Red fan

    Meyer’s and Senzel have looked completely over matched at the plate. Flip Barrero for what you can (Dodgers?), put India at 3rd, EDLC at SS, McLain at 2b CES 1B, with Steer slotting at any of these on a given day.
    This time a year ago is when the O’s brought up AR and they took off. We could do the same..

  16. Roger O Doss

    Play a full year at Louisville and put up real good numbers for the whole year. Then maybe out of Spring Training if it’s a good one or about this time next year if he’s as hot as now.