Matt McLain, SS, CIN

BaseballHQ’s Chris Blessing wrote about Matt McLain today ($) during which he raised his BHQ rating from an 8B to an 9C. Don’t worry too much about what it all means, but trust me when I tell you that 9Cs are not all that common. So what did Matt do that made Chris change his scouting report?

Video courtesy of FanGraphs
  • Born: August 6, 1999
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 5’11”, 180-lbs
  • Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2021 MLB June Amateur Draft from UCLA

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

Lots of green tell us good things are happening with McLain. He gets on base, and now doing it at Double-A is good. The strikeouts have gone up a bit, yet are still in acceptable territory. Especially because the walk rate has stayed the same, and yes, that ISO doubling (!)

What happened with McLain that his power suddenly exploded? He was always viewed as the sort of prospect who was good at everything without being plus at power. The kind of batter who puts the ball through the holes instead of swinging for the fences. Contact over power.

First of all, let’s step back a bit and note that his Hard Hit% is only 26.3% so far. That’s not terrible, but he was 25.5% last year, and that’s not a big jump. So he still isn’t hitting the ball that hard. Think more pull power than opposite field power.

He has had more trouble against RHP, but a .360 OBP against them is just fine, and two of his three HRs have come against them.

So here’s what Chris Blessing said about what he saw that made him evaluate McLain differently:

A new skill is always exciting to discover. And yes, if a contact-oriented batter like McLain starts to show at least pull power, that’s another tool in his pocket.

So now not only can he get on base, not only can he steal 15-20 SBs, but if he could get to a 20+ HR level in the middle infield, now you’re talking about a valuable prospect. A top prospect.

The Scouts

Warnings

Let’s make sure his BA against RHP doesn’t go too low.

Hitting the ball harder would be better.

Does he keep this elevated ISO up over a large stretch of the season?

Conclusion

McLain has very few weaknesses, and he’s seemingly addressing one of his less strong attributes. Would you like a SS or 2B who gives up 20/15 with a high OBP?

Meet Matt McLain. Reds’ fans soon will.

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