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

Matt McLain will be one of the most interesting Cincinnati Reds players to watch once spring training begins. McLain, a former first-round pick, is a non-roster invitee and will join the Goodyear, Arizona team later this month.

McLain spent all of last season at Double-A Chattanooga playing mostly shortstop. He also spent time in the Arizona Fall League late last season. McLain hit .232/.363/.453 in 103 games 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 prime position and has an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. However, the 23-year-old is yet to be included in the 40-man squad and where he will start next season has been the subject of much debate during the off-season. Should McLain be on the Reds Opening Day list or not?

Let’s take the glass half full approach first, shall we? Why Matt McLain is breaking camp with the Cincinnati Reds and being included in the team’s Opening Day lineup in 2023?

First of all, he is playing in a position that is extremely unclear at the moment. The Reds traded Kyle Farmer in the offseason and brought in longtime Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman. Newman is a glove-over-bat type infielder with a career OPS+ of just 79.

Cincinnati’s other shortstop is underperforming Jose Barrero. After being called up to the big leagues in early August, Barrero did almost everything he could to utterly lose the Reds’ confidence in their so-called shortstop future. Barrero struck 76 times in 174 at-bats.

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

With the Reds looking to keep Elly De La Cruz in the minor leagues at least early in 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 on that meet where the two prospects are will defensively pass forward.

But why would the Cincinnati Reds hasten Matt McLain’s leap into the major leagues? Isn’t that where the franchise screwed up with Jose Barrero?

Speaking of Barrero, did the 24-year-old really get a fair shot? Outside of last season, Barrero has rarely played shortstop in the major leagues. While his plate numbers were terrible in 2022, he still has fewer than 300 plate appearances. That’s about half a season.

Are fans really ready to give up a player with Barrero’s potential after just 93 games in the big leagues? While Barrero may not be the player everyone was hoping would be after a great minor league season in 2021, one has to imagine he will be better in 2023 after recovering from his injury before the season 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 would he start his duty clock so early, especially with a team likely to lose 90+ games in 2023.

It’s no slam dunk that McLain’s is making its way onto the Reds’ 2023 opening day list, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility either. McLain is given a chance to prove himself during spring training, although a few outside factors may actually determine where he starts next season.

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

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