UCLA shortstop Matt McLain drafted No. 17 overall by Cincinnati Reds
Junior shortstop Matt McLain was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft on Sunday. McLain was originally selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of high school but had opted to uphold his UCLA baseball commitment. (David Rimer/Assistant Photo editor)
July 11, 2021 7:28 p.m.
This post was updated July 12 at 12:40 p.m.
For the third year in a row, a Bruin has heard his name called in the first round.
Former UCLA baseball shortstop Matt McLain was drafted No. 17 overall in the 2021 MLB Draft to the Cincinnati Reds, following in the footsteps of outfielders Garrett Mitchell and Michael Toglia, who were selected in the first round of the 2020 and 2019 draft, respectively.
McLain was previously selected in the first round No. 25 overall in 2018 by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he turned down the opportunity in favor of upholding his commitment to UCLA. The three-year Bruin was projected to go in the middle of the first round, with The Athletic putting him in the 10th spot and MLB ranking him at No. 12 on the MLB draft prospects list.
In high school, McLain received first-team All-American status twice as well as two league MVP nods. After arriving at UCLA as a freshman, the Tustin, California, native started in the first regular game of the season and manned center field throughout the year before transitioning to his current role at shortstop as a sophomore.
The 5-foot-11 right-handed hitter held only a .203 batting average in his freshman season before breaking out in his second year in Westwood. The shortstop slashed .397/.422/.621, good for the highest batting average and OPS on the team, with 23 hits and 19 RBIs over 13 games.
A pre-season All-American heading into his final season, McLain launched nine of his 16 career home runs and drove in 36 for a .579 slugging percentage and a .333 batting average. McLain also walked 34 times and accumulated a .434 on-base percentage, ranking him second in the team in four of those six categories among qualified batters.
To cap off his final months as a Bruin, McLain was named to the 2021 Pac-12 All-Conference Team while also earning a 2021 Lubbock Regional All-Tournament Team selection for his performance in the postseason.
While McLain has settled into his role as a shortstop throughout the past two seasons, his defensive role in the major leagues remains to be seen.
Questions also remain about McLain’s potential power at the plate, but his fielding versatility is a plus for a Reds team that is still building upon its defensive makeup. Reds shortstops slashed .240/.300/.367 in 2020, giving McLain an opportunity to fill in offensively at the position.
Cincinnati is coming off a 31-29 season in 2020 that placed them in the middle of the National League Central and saw its season end in a 2-0 sweep by the Atlanta Braves in their Wild Card series. The Reds currently sit second in the division behind the Milwaukee Brewers with a 48-42 record.