2018 MLB Draft Report: Shortstop Matt McLain Opening Eyes
IRVINE, Calif.—While the Boras Classic South tournament is the main high school baseball attraction this week in the Los Angeles area, more than a dozen scouts left either Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) High or JSerra (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) High and headed to Beckman High in Irvine, Calif., to check out shortstop Matt McLain, who’s been the talk of SoCal area scouts for the last several weeks.
McLain and Beckman faced Corona Del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.) High, which has an interesting draft prospect in its own right with outfielder Preston Hartsell, who has a power/speed combo in center field and is committed to Southern California.
Corona Del Mar walked away with a 1-0 victory, but below you can find a breakdown of McLain’s day, with full video of his pregame reps at shortstop and each of his three at-bats, in addition to notes on Hartsell.
Before Tuesday’s game got rolling, Beckman took a standard infield/outfield session where McLain—who’s 5-foot-10, 175 pounds and ranked No. 178 on BA's top 300 draft prospects list—showed very active footwork defensively with a solid arm strength. In-game, McLain’s defensive ability was much more impressive, as he made every play that came to him and showed the ability to throw at different arm angles and on the run.
In the top of the fourth with the bases loaded and one out, McLain had a ball hit to his right where a bad hop jumped up on him at the last second. The UCLA commit wasn’t fazed—he showed quick hands and good reactions to field the ball cleanly on the hop and make an accurate feed to second base to start a 6-4-3 double play and end the inning.
McLain—who has improved as a runner and has 60-grade speed—also made multiple impressive plays on slow rollers, quickly cutting down ground on the ball on two occasions with a quick exchange and strong, accurate throws while off-balance. His second slow roller was the most impressive, as he threw out a righthanded batter who reached base in 4.33 seconds on Baseball America’s stopwatch.
McLain went 1-for-3 at the plate with a single and two flyouts, but he barreled the ball in each of his first two trips to the plate and showed a good understanding of the strike zone in each of his plate appearances. He sets up with a simple, slightly wide stance with a loose, energetic bounce as he waits for the pitch. McLain doesn’t have much of a leg kick, but instead takes a moderate stride to the ball as he prepares for contact, with a level bat path and an impressive ability to keep his hands back to allow the ball to travel, even if his landing foot is already down.
His best at-bat came in the bottom of the third inning, when he got behind in the count 0-2 before confidently taking a pitch just barely outside for a ball and then driving the next pitch he saw through the right side of the infield. McLain rounded the bag in 4.35 seconds, which would likely translate to a plus home-to-first time or better had he ran straight through. He then stole second base in 3.62 seconds.
McLain is undersized and doesn’t have any one tool that jumps out, but he does everything on the field well and makes all the plays at shortstop in addition to having exceptional makeup according to scouts who know him. With the way he’s been hitting, he’s rising up boards and is potentially a top 3-4 round talent.
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- Preston Hartsell has been trending in the opposite direction of McLain this spring, as scouts have been concerned with the amount of swing and miss in his game and added muscle that has made him stiffer and caused some of his tools to back up. Hartsell won the Perfect Game All-American Classic home run derby at Petco Park last summer and was also named the 2017 Perfect Game WWBA Most Valuable Player, but he has not had as much success with the bat this spring. Tuesday, Hartsell went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and a fly out, with four swings and misses in total. His swing is a steep uppercut and he also sets up with an extremely wide stance in the box. He still has plenty of raw power, and looked good in center field chasing down a deep fly ball to the right-center gap, but he’s struggled to make the most of his loud tools and scouts point to too much added muscle as the cause.