Reds grab massive steal selecting Matt McLain in the MLB Draft

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 02: Matt McLain #1 of the UCLA Bruins. (Photo by Andy Bao/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 02: Matt McLain #1 of the UCLA Bruins. (Photo by Andy Bao/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds made Matt McLain their first-round selection in the 2021 MLB Draft. Outside of Jose Barrero, formerly Jose Garcia, the Reds have no shortstops among their Top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline. That’s about to change.

This section is as close to highway robbery as Cincinnati could’ve hoped for. The Kansas City Royals made the odd selection of Frank Mozzicato with the 7th overall pick, Kumar Rocker fell to the New York Mets at No. 10, and potential first-overall pick Khalil Watson ended up with the Miami Marlins after 15 other teams passed.

Outside of Rocker and Watson, you could make the argument that the Cincinnati Reds got the biggest steal of the draft. McLain was thought by many to be the best college infielder in the draft class.

The Reds may have struck gold by selecting Matt McLain in the MLB Draft. ranked Matt McLain as the top college shortstop in the draft class and the 12th-best prospect overall. Landing a top college bat follows a similar line of thinking we’ve seen from the Reds before, having taken Nick Senzel (2016) and Jonathan India (2018) in Round 1 of two of the team’s last five drafts.

At 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, some might consider McLain to be a bit on the small side, but the 21-year-old has proven that he has what it takes to be a solid defender at shortstop. McLain has played all over the diamond and could even find a home in centerfield.

It’s a good bet, however, that Cincinnati attempts to keep McLain at shortstop. He has more than enough arm strength to field the position, and the lack of depth within the team’s farm system almost necessitates that McLain remain at shortstop.

Jose Barrero is expected to graduate to the major leagues on a permanent basis next season. Barrero has been diligently working in the minor leagues this year, hoping to bring his bat up to the same level as his major league-ready glove.

Cincinnati’s current shortstop situation is certainly not ideal, but, a the All-Star break, the combination of Eugenio Suarez, Kyle Farmer, and Mike Freeman have the Reds in the thick of the NL Central pennant race.

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Barrero may be Cincinnati’s shortstop of the future, but there’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. It’s not going to happen overnight, but McLain’s bat will play at the big league level. He could rise very quickly through the Reds’ farm system.