The case for and against including Matt McLain on the Reds Opening Day roster

Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee infielder Matt McLain.
Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee infielder Matt McLain. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Matt McLain will be one of the more intriguing Cincinnati Reds players to keep an eye once spring training gets underway. McLain, a former first-round pick, is a non-roster invitee and will be joining the team in Goodyear, Arizona later this month.

McLain spent all of last season at Double-A Chattanooga and primarily played shortstop. He also spent time in the Arizona Fall League late last season. McLain hit.232/.363/.453 in 103 game with the Chattanooga Lookouts last year and slashed .190/.340/.317 in the AFL as a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs.

McLain plays a premium position and has an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. But, the 23-year-old has yet to be added to the 40-man roster and where he begins next season has been the subject of much debate during the offseason. Should McLain be on the Reds Opening Day roster or not?

The case for including Matt McLain on the Reds Opening Day roster.

Let's take the glass half-full approach first, shall we? What is the case for Matt McLain breaking camp with the Cincinnati Reds and being included on the team's Opening Day roster in 2023?

For starters, he plays a position that is extremely unsettled at the moment. The Reds traded away Kyle Farmer during the offseason and brought in longtime Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman. Newman is a glove-over-bat type of infielder with a career-OPS+ of just 79.

Cincinnati's other shortstop is the underperforming Jose Barrero. After getting called up to the big leagues in early-August, Barrero did almost everything he could to cause the Reds' brass to lose total faith in their so-called shortstop of future. Barrero struck out 76 times in 174 at-bats.

McLain would surely bring a better bat and maybe even a better glove to the position. McLain posted a 15.5% walk-rate and an on-base percentage of .363 along with a wRC+ of 115 last season at Double-A according to FanGraphs.

With the Reds looking to keep Elly De La Cruz in the minor leagues, at least to begin the 2023 season, Cincinnati could see if McLain is able to handle the rigors of shortstop at the big league level and make a decision about where the two prospects will fit defensively going forward.

The case against including Matt McLain on the Reds Opening Day roster.

But why should the Cincinnati Reds accelerate Matt McLain's jump to the major leauges? Isn't that where the franchise screwed up with Jose Barrero?

Speaking of Barrero, has the 24-year-old really been given a fair shake? Outside of last season, Barrero has rarely even played shortstop at the major league level. While his numbers at the plate were awful in 2022, still has fewer than 300 plate appearances. That's about the equivalent of half-a-season.

Are fans really ready to give up on a player with Barrero's potential after just 93 games in the big leagues? While Barrero may not be the player that everyone hoped he would be after a terrific minor league campaign in 2021, one has to imagine that he'll be better in 2023 after having his pre-season injury in the rearview mirror.

With both Barrero and Kevin Newman on the 40-man roster, the Cincinnati Reds have enough depth at shortstop to start next season while Matt McLain continues to get reps in the minors. Why start his service time clock so soon, especially with what's likely to be a team that loses 90-plus games in 2023.

It's not a slam dunk that McLain's finds his way onto the Reds 2023 Opening Day roster, but it's also not out of the realm of possibilities. McLain will be given a chance during spring training to prove himself, though some outside factors may actually determine where he begins the upcoming season.

Next. 3 Reds who don't deserve to be on the 40-man roster. dark