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Fantasy baseball waiver wire: Reds prospect Matt McLain looks like a five-category stud

Cincinnati promoted the infielder after a scorching start at Triple-A, and he could be a major difference-maker for fantasy baseball teams everywhere.

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Matt McLain celebrates with teammates after scoring a run against the Colorado Rockies in the third inning at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Another day that ends in -y, another top prospect getting set to make his MLB debut. This time it’s a Cincinnati Reds infielder ranked on everyone’s top-100 list who’s been killing the ball at Triple-A. No, not Elly de la Cruz, the other one: Matt McLain, who Cincy will reportedly be calling up to the Majors ahead of Monday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

We’ve been telling you to stash McLain for the last couple of weeks now, and if you took that advice, congratulations. If you didn’t, though, don’t worry: There’s still time to grab MLB Pipeline’s No. 95 overall prospect before he announces himself as a five-category game-changer.

Matt McLain fantasy impact

One of a quartet of Cincy shortstops banging on the door to the Majors, McLain beat de la Cruz, Edwin Arroyo and Noelvi Marte to the Show thanks to some truly video-game numbers at Triple-A Louisville this year: a .348/.474/.710 slash line with 12 homers and 10 steals over just 38 games. Obviously, Minor League numbers are not a perfect predictor of Major League success, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that McLain’s scorching start is a sign of the player he can be with the Reds.

McLain’s development prior to 2023 was in many ways a tale of two different players. Drafted 17th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft out of UCLA, he was initially thought of as the sort of high-floor, contact-oriented infielder whose hit tool and professional approach at the plate would get him to the Majors quickly — and theoretically overcome a lack of any particularly loud athletic traits. Sure enough, he hit .283 with just three homers across to levels of the Minors in his first taste of pro ball.

But McLain retooled his swing that winter, and he emerged in 2022 with a totally different profile. That short, compact swing now was engineered to produce fly balls and over-the-fence power, and while the homers came in bunches — 17 over 103 games at Double-A — they also came with 127 Ks and a .232 average. The patient approach remained, though, helping him post a .363 OBP, and gave hope that McLain could fuse his old hitting ability with his newfound pop to create a dynamic top-of-the-order bat.

Flash forward a few months, and it seems safe to say that those hopes have been realized.

McLain has cut his K rate more than nine points, down to 19.6%, and he’s done it without having to sacrifice his new power stroke. He obviously won’t be able to hit like this in the Majors, but this version of the infielder is someone who can threaten 20-25 homers while still hitting .260-.270 — with the athleticism to swipe 15-20 bags to boot. There’s genuine top-50 potential here, and even if the batting average falls apart again at the MLB level, the power and speed give him a solid floor. He should be a priority add in just about every fantasy league.