Matt McLain is the new guy in the Cincinnati Reds organization, the team’s 1st round pick from the 2021 MLB Draft who picked up 100 more PA with UCLA during the last calendar year than he did in the professional ranks. He did pop an early homer when he reached High-A Dayton, though, and impressed enough in 119 PA there to crack a number of Top 100 overall prospect lists, the hope being he’ll be in the mix for the Reds shortstop of the future at some point down the line.
I’m all for parallel perspectives here at Red Reporter dot com, and McLain provides me a perfect one thanks to his August 6th, 1999 date of birth. Folks, that’s the exact same day that fellow Cincinnati top prospect Hunter Greene was born.
The funny thing is, some fans have probably already seen more of McLain as a professional than Greene, as the shortstop played in 31 games between Dayton and the Reds Arizona Complex League club last year while Greene made 21 starts split between AA Chattanooga and AAA Louisville. And while McLain was piling up hits at UCLA in the years prior to that, Greene was fighting his way back from an elbow injury that kept him sidelined for what felt like an eon.
Pour-in a global pandemic and a shutdown of a 2020 minor league season entirely, and the wait to see Greene in any fashion - not just as a big leaguer, but anywhere - has seemed fleeting more often than not. Since being drafted as the 2nd overall pick in 2017 and signed for a then-record bonus, he’s thrown a grand total of 179.0 professional in-game innings. In a sign both of how much he’s been hidden from us and how the game itself has changed, just know that Reds legend Tom Browning threw 196.0 IP in his first full year in the minors, while Roy Halladay - like Greene a high school righty picked in the 1st round - had thrown 215 IP as a pro by the end of his age-19 season.
The point about Greene and McLain being born on the same exact day in Southern California back in 1999 is still the most pertinent here, however. Hunter Greene is still impossibly young, still so incredibly early into what will undoubtedly be a long, and hopefully storied pro career. Had the Reds chosen to promote him to the big leagues to help push for a playoff spot during the 2021 campaign, for instance, he’d have been the third youngest player in the major leagues at that point. So despite our inability to savor his development for the last handful of years, there’s still a ton of patience that’s to be required of us as we back him as a future cog of the Cincinnati baseball machine.
Of course, that patience is once again being tested already, though this time it’s got nothing to do with Greene himself. As Brandon, friend of the blog, pointed out on Twitter yesterday aside Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, he’s stuck in the precarious position of being on the 40-man roster of the Reds during this absurd owner-induced lockout, meaning he’s literally locked out of participating with the other minor leaguers in Goodyear right now.
Hunter Greene, Allan Cerda, and Alexis Diaz fit into this category. Zero big league service time but prohibited from participating in the minor leagues due to being on the 40-man roster.— OnBaseMachine (@RedsFan_Brandon) March 2, 2022
Other prospects on the 40-man who can’t play include Barrero, Friedl, and SanMartin. https://t.co/SQVOVrsEcW
Nick Lodolo’s in Goodyear carving up eyeballs with his developing slider because he’s not yet on the Reds 40-man roster. Graham Ashcraft and his bowling-ball heater are there, too, working daily as if this were any other March. Greene, however, is once again relegated to figuring out this whole baseball thing on an alternate path due to his spot on the 40-man, though at this point there may be few other players in the game better equipped to figure it out on his own than him.
He’s had to do it time and time again already, after all.
How that impacts his eventual MLB debut in 2022 will certainly be a topic of discussion if and when this dastardly lockout ends. With Wade Miley given away to Chicago, Mike Lorenzen gone in free agency, and the Reds potentially shopping other established starters on the trade market to slash payroll even more, it was always going to be a transitional year for the team’s starting rotation, with Lodolo and Ashcraft two of the other names in the mix for MLB time. That those two get to be in-camp while Greene does not due to an administrative notation just might give them higher priority in that pecking order, perhaps pushing back our chance to see Greene on the biggest stage just a little bit more in the process.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s the kind of extra frustration that’ll serve as fuel to up that legendary heater from 105 mph up to 111 mph, or so.