Let's not pedestalize Reds shortstop prospect Matt McLain just yet

The Reds mob shortstop Matt McLain (78) after his walk-off solo home run.
The Reds mob shortstop Matt McLain (78) after his walk-off solo home run. / Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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Cincinnati Reds shortstop prospect Matt McLain made a great first impression during Saturday's Cactus League opener against the Cleveland Guardians.

With the score knotted at three runs apiece in the bottom of the ninth inning, McLain hit an absolute tank off the scoreboard in left field. The round tripper broke the tie and allowed the Reds to walk it off with a 4-3 victory over the Guardians.

Of course, those types of theatrics are going to get the fanbase excited about the potential of McLain breaking camp with the big league. Let's slow down just a bit before anointing the shortstop as the next big thing in Cincinnati.

Let's not pedestalize Reds SS prospect Matt McLain just yet.

There's reason for excitement, sure. Matt McLain is a former first-round pick and many outlets rank the shortstop among the Top 100 prospects in the sport. MLB Pipeline rated McLain at No. 73 at the end of last season, but he's since fallen out of favor and is no longer listed among the Top 100.

McLain hit for average during his first stint in the minor leagues. In 2021 with the Dayton Dragons, McLain slashed .273/.387/.424. The Reds bumped McLain up to Double-A Chattanooga last season and he responded by hitting .232/.363/.453.

The Reds scouting department has admitted to pushing McLain hard since his arrival to the club back in 2021. But with such a tremendous amount of depth on both the major league roster and in the farm system, there's little reason to accelerate his ascension to the big leagues.

There are those among the fanbase who'd love to see Matt McLain added to the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster. While that's certainly attainable if he plays at a high level throughout spring training, barring injury, there's no real reason to add McLain to the 26-man roster straight out of Goodyear.

The Cincinnati Reds already have shortstop covered with Jose Barrero and Kevin Newman. Even Spencer Steer can fill in at the position if needed. McLain struggled while playing in the Arizona Fall League last year, and some more seasoning in the minor leagues could do him well.

McLain will likely begin the 2023 season at Triple-A Louisville, but with Barrero likely on a short leash, the UCLA product could find his way to the major leagues rather quickly. While it's too early to anoint McLain as the Reds shortstop for the upcoming season, he's definitely put his name in the hat with Saturday's performance.

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