Today, our series profiling the potential draft picks for the Detroit Tigers looks at Matt McLain, shortstop, from UCLA.
The team at MCB is covering the draft all month long. Be sure to check back every day for new content related to the 2021 MLB draft. The Detroit Tigers need a shortstop sooner than later and judging by recent draft history, they are going to continue to look.
Matt McLain’s Background
Matt McLain has been a prospect the scouting community has been aware of since his high school days. As the 2018 draft approached, McLain saw his stock rise eventually leading to him being selected 25th overall by Arizona. He decided to forego the professional ranks and honor his commitment to UCLA. During his time at UCLA, McLain continued to mature physically and has advanced as a baseball player as well. Even reaching the point, during his sophomore season, where some scouts considered him as a potential 1:1 pick (baseball parlance for first overall) in the 2021 MLB draft.
Matt McLain’s Scouting Report
McLain has the frame of a middle infielder standing around 5’11” and weighing 180 lbs. He plays shortstop for UCLA and because of his above-average to plus arm and speed, many scouts believe he can stick at the position as a professional with the ceiling of an average defender.
The real calling card for McLain as a prospect however is his feel for hitting. He combines strong contact ability, with the ability to control the strike-zone leading to the potential for a plus hit tool. In addition to the ability to make contact, some scouts believe he can also develop average power down the road due to the wiry strength in his frame and solid bat speed. Some scouts do question his ability to hit for power as he transitions to a wood bat, however.
MLB Pipeline speaks highly of McLain’s potential.
“McLain has matured physically since he was a high school prospect, adding more strength to his 5-foot-10 frame. He’s always had very good bat-to-ball skills with surprising power, but there’s even more pop in his right-handed swing now. His increased physicality has helped him in all facets of the game. He’s still a plus runner with a stronger arm than he had in high school and better overall athleticism.”
Will the Detroit Tigers draft Matt McLain?
Let’s start with the obvious, after being in the discussion to be picked near the very top of the draft, Matt McLain has settled in as a borderline top ten pick in the upcoming draft. Meaning, he will probably not be the third overall pick by Detroit. That isn’t to say though that he isn’t an intriguing prospect. His combination of hitting ability and average defense gives him a respectable floor, while the potential for average power gives him a respectable ceiling.
The issue for McLain when discussing his candidacy to be selected in the top three is two-fold, however. First, some in the scouting community question his transition to wood bats and the development of that average power which would limit his overall ceiling. Second, and likely more relevant, is the rise of the high school shortstops in this draft class.
Currently, he is rated behind Mayer, Lawler, Watson, and House by the majority of draft publications meaning he is at best the 5th best shortstop for many teams. For him to then be considered inside the top three he would likely have to be a below-slot, money-saving pick for someone inside the top three to rise to that level.