HomeMLB RumorsMatt McLain Being Evaluated For Shoulder Injury

Matt McLain Being Evaluated For Shoulder Injury

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Reds infielder Matt McLain was scratched from the lineup Monday due to some discomfort in his left shoulder, prompting the club to have an MRI performed. While the team hasn’t divulged anything conclusive yet, manager David Bell provided an ominous update Wednesday, telling the Reds beat that the MRI found “something” and that the team is still gathering information and determining how to proceed (X link via Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer). There’s an unusually broad range of outcomes at this point, as Bell didn’t firmly rule out McLain for the Opening Day roster but also acknowledged that there’s a “possibility” of shoulder surgery.

The 17th overall pick in the 2021 draft, the now-24-year-old McLain made his big league debut in 2023 and immediately made an impact. In 89 games and 403 trips to the plate, he slashed .290/.357/.507 (128 wRC+) with 16 homers, 23 doubles, four triples and 14 stolen bases (in 19 tries). His 7.7% walk rate was a bit lower than average, while his 28.5% strikeout rate was well north of average.

McLain had some good fortune on balls in play (.385 BABIP), though some of that lofty BABIP is attributable to a huge 24.2% line-drive rate and strong 42.8% hard-hit rate. It’s still fair to project some regression in his performance, but even if he’s not hitting at the borderline star-caliber level he did in 2023, McLain has the look of an everyday fixture in the Reds’ lineup due both to his bat and his defensive versatility.

Though McLain was drafted as a shortstop, he split hit time between the two middle infield slots. Bell suggested earlier in camp that McLain was likelier to focus on second base this season. Elly De La Cruz is expected to take the lion’s share of reps at shortstop, though McLain could slide to that side of the bag in the event of further injury troubles for De La Cruz.

The Reds have a noted infield surplus which was only deepened when they signed Jeimer Candelario to a three-year deal over the winter. An 80-game PED suspension for promising 22-year-old Noelvi Marte has thinned out the perceived logjam a bit, and an absence for McLain would lend further clarity to the division of playing time around the diamond. As it stands, Candelario appears lined up for regular work at the hot corner, with De La Cruz at short, McLain at second, Christian Encarnacion-Strand at first base and Spencer Steer in left field. Former NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India has been expected to bounce between second base, first base and designated hitter, though he could certainly reclaim regular playing time at second base if McLain heads to the injured list.

McLain picked up 140 days of major league service time in 2023, leaving him a bit more than a month shy of a full year (172 days). That means the Reds still have six full seasons of control over him, though he’ll very likely wind up reaching Super Two status and thus be eligible for arbitration four times rather than the standard three. The first of those four offseasons of arbitration eligibility would fall after the 2025 campaign. On his current trajectory, McLain wouldn’t qualify for free agency until the 2029-30 offseason.

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